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I got a server, four-2.6Ghz AMD opteron and 10Gigs RAM on TYAN Thunder board, for free. The thing is massive and loud, I'd like to reclaim the processors and RAM into two smaller computers each with two processors. Can someone suggest a motherboard for these processors that I can fit into a home computer case?

I really don't have much experience with this kind of stuff, and expert advice is appreciated over some random google search. Also, anything else you'd like to add about my situation is also appreciated. Thank you.

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5 Answers

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I'd highly recommend Tyan. I use them for Socket F Opterons but from your CPU speed, it looks like you've got 800 series (socket 940), not 8000 (socket F). Please correct me if I'm wrong.

As of right now, I'm unaware if Tyan has any Socket 940 motherboards available and if they do, they certainly aren't actively listing any on their website, but they list a whole slew of 940 motherboards in their archives.

Some people may recommend Supermicro and I've used them nearly a decade ago, but I've always seen Supermicro lean towards the Intel camp and at times it seems like AMD is treated as a stepchild in their product line. Just my opinion of course. ASUS and Gigabyte may be vendors to investigate, but as companies go, their market is in the enthusiast sector - not typically workstation/server sector.

You might be able to snag a good deal on eBay and such, but a little more information is needed as some of these motherboards may only fit eATX (full tower) vs. ATX (mid tower). The price and size differential between eATX and ATX can be large. I've built several Tyan Opteron server systems and in terms of quality, they're great but in your specific issue, case size may determine the motherboard you can buy.

On a side note: another factor for your home is heat and noise. You may want to investigate cooling and noise issues as if these systems will be in your home, take that into account. I'm currently looking into water cooling my dual socket F rig as noise and especially heat are becoming serious issues.

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yes, 940. mm, I was hoping droping down from 4 to 2 processors, and getting a different case would limit the noise/heat. I'd rather not spend too much time tweaking this stuff, should I abandon my quest? –  nlucaroni Aug 12 '09 at 15:42
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I don't think you should abandon, but rather modify. First off, I'm not even certain if you can drop CPUs designed for 4-8 socket systems into 2 socket motherboards. I've never thought about it so this would be something to check into first. If you can, then I would say investigate into motherboards and sizes, but if time is a factor maybe selling it would be better and buying a newer (more adaptable) Opteron system would meet your needs. Or pocket the money whichever suits you. :) –  osij2is Aug 12 '09 at 15:51
    
Just want to mention my progress for anyone else looking. I got side tracked with things, and plan to start up again this winter, but the motherboard I'm currently looking at is Asus : hardwarezone.com/articles/view.php?cid=25&id=1661 –  nlucaroni Oct 8 '09 at 15:35
    
Well for a dual socket motherboard, it's not too bad. 6x 184-pin (DDR 400/333/266 ECC registered) SDRAM DIMM slot supporting up to 24GB memory (with 64-bit operating system) is a little weak IMO but at the very least it should work and of course free parts isn't a bad thing. As long as it's reasonably priced (~$120-$160?), it should be good. –  osij2is Oct 8 '09 at 15:54
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The Tyan S2927 is an dual processor ATX board that is easy to find. There are also EATX boards and EATX cases if you want to go that route.

Watch out for motherboards that run the memory for the second CPU through the first one on the ATX boards. I know the S2927 is setup to give each processor it's own memory bank which is why I mention it.

Newegg.com is a good place to get an idea of what parts are available.

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another option is to install the motherboard into a full-tower case made for the gamer/enthusiast/overclocker market. Of course, this is only a viable idea if the two computers you want to split the machine into are going to be in the same location....then you could keep it as one machine and use virtualisation to run multiple servers on it.

they tend to have excellent cooling with much less noise than traditional server cases because they aren't constrained by a 1, 2, or 4RU form-factor and can use very large slower fans (e.g. 230mm fans) rather than smallish (60 or 80mm) fast & noisy fans.

e.g. the Antec 1200 or the Coolermaster HAF 932 or similar. you'd have to carefully examine the specs of the cases to make sure they'll actually fit your motherboard. The spec sheet PDF from Tyan's web site says that it is an SSI motherboard 13" x 16"...that's significantly larger than EATX at 12" x 13", but many of these gamer/enthusiast tower cases have a LOT of room in them.

finally, one related option is to replace the fans in your existing server case with quieter fans. it's not that hard to find much quieter fans that move almost as much air (or sometimes even more) as the standard ones that come with traditional server cases. optimising for minimal noise isn't a priority for standard server fans that are intended to go into a server room with big noisy air-conditioning etc anyway, but it IS a priority for the home gamer/enthusiast market.

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I would love to do this actually. I did investigate ESXi briefly, but abandoned when I found out this hardware wasn't compatible. That's a very good point about changing the case for better airflow. That was part of my motivation on splitting the device up. I actually found the decibels each of the fans run off of, around 30-50 each, I recall. That was something I was considering. I also wrote some code to figure out the loudest fans I could use to get a desired decibel output. –  nlucaroni Aug 13 '09 at 14:54
    
zalman, coolermaster, thermaltake and several other manufacturerers make very quiet fans - a few years ago, i replaced the fans in my 4RU rackmount case at home with zalman and CM fans. the noise dropped from a horrendous screech (40+db) to a bearable hum/drone (about 20db). at the time, the fans were about $10-$20 AUD each, and worth every cent. they're even cheaper now. –  cas Aug 13 '09 at 21:50
    
i guess by "hardware wasn't compatible" you mean that the CPU doesn't have hardware support for virtualisation. you might want to investigate some para-virtualisation options - e.g. Xen or linux KVM with Qemu, and i think vmware has a part-virt version too. depending on what you want to run in the guest OSes, that may work for you. –  cas Aug 13 '09 at 21:53
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Best is to use another Tyan, a smaller model.

Problem with your configuration is you need a specific motherboard for the CPU and the memory.

And general motherboard dont fit.

The two main vendors are Intel and Tyan as far as I know.

The Tyan website is not the most user friendly but you can easily find the reference of your board, you just have to choose a motherboard of the same familly with lower spec, for only 2 CPU.

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Yes, I've noticed. This has been the main problem with my search. Thanks for, at least, confirming my disappointment with the situation, and giving some advice. When you say, "specific motherboard", you are just implying specific to opteron, not with my opterons, right? –  nlucaroni Aug 12 '09 at 15:20
    
Most 800/8000 series operton boards are fairly large. Expect eATX to SSI/MEB/non-standard case sizes. Also, I'm highly uncertain if you can actually plop in 800/8000 CPUs into 2CPU motherboards as they may only be compatible with 200/2000 Opteron CPUs. Make sure to read the manual to determine processor compatibility or check Tyan's CPU compatibility list (tyan.com/support_download_cpu2.aspx?socketid=9) for their EOL (end-of-life) socket 940. They seem to stay on top of this list more than their own product pages. –  osij2is Aug 12 '09 at 15:48
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There should be no prohibition on using an 800 or 8000 series processor in a dual-processor board. The difference between the 2* and 8* series is a few fuses blown to enable the additional hypertransport lanes needed for going from dual processor to multiprocessor. You just can't do it the other direction (use more than two 2xx/2xxx processors on a >2 socket board). –  Travis Campbell Aug 12 '09 at 16:19
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Thanks, Travis. I didn't want to assume such a thing as hardware isn't exactly forgiving. From the Tyan manuals I've read, they really didn't mention compatibility with Opterons with higher prefixes as compatible so I figured it would be best not to gamble otherwise. –  osij2is Aug 12 '09 at 17:32
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Take a look at this MB from Tyan

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813151098

Read the reviews, it appears that this board might fit a standard ATX case

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That's the exact motherboard I currently use. I even wrote one of the reviews on that specific model on Newegg. :) –  osij2is Aug 12 '09 at 15:42
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