I do computational biology and I have a pretty heavy-duty setup sitting right next to my bench. It includes the following:

  1. 1x HP ProLiant DL385 G7 Server w/ 2x 12-core AMD Opteron processors (6174, 2.2GHz, 80W) + 96 GB ram (8x8GB).
  2. 2x HP StorageWorks D2600 w/12 600GB 6G SAS 15K HDD (7.2TB Bundle)
  3. 1x HP 3KVA UPS

The entire system occupies 8u (just to give you an idea) and I am running Ubuntu server 10.04.

About half of the time, the server will be crunching data coming off of DNA sequencing instrument and all 24 cores should be in use + frequent writing/reading from disk.

25% of the time I am running ad-hoc jobs that I've customized to utilize all the cores (using fork() or other methods).

About 25% of the time there is nothing running on the server. However, since I may be developing or running jobs from home at night, I need the server to be available by SSH all the time (dynamic IP w/ a hostname provided by my institution).

I've noticed that even when the server is completely idle, it is still pretty loud. The fans for the server and the RAID Arrays are running (albeit not at full tilt). Is there any good power management software that can be run to shutdown the raid arrays (until accessed) or otherwise decrease power usage and total noise output?


You are out of luck pretty much. Those systems are meant to be in a server room, not in an office. Noone cares about noice there.

Main problem is - the ventilators are not consuming a lot of power, so even if you get power management (spin down the discs), your raid contorller should have functions for that) this will simply not affect the noice level too much. Most noise comes from the fans.

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  • I should spin down the disks if they are not in use, correct? If so, is this controllable by Ubuntu or should it be happening automatically? – Ron Gejman Oct 28 '10 at 18:37
  • Well, I would say it is somethingyour RAID controller should control. Ubuntu should not see the discs, only the generated groups. Whether you do it or not is your decision - I normally do not do it, but my systems do a little more in the night. But with a proper RAID controller all that is in the control of the RAID controller. – TomTom Oct 28 '10 at 18:50
  • Came here to say the first part of this - this machine, as a rack mounted server, has no business being in a lab. It should be in a server room where you don't have to listen to it. – Mark Allen Oct 28 '10 at 19:24
  • +1 Servers go in a server room for many reasons, a big one of which is the noise and heat they generate. Attempting to get this down to a level suitable for the office is always going to be like trying to empty all the water out of an ocean with a teaspoon. – Rob Moir Oct 28 '10 at 21:59
  • @Ron Gejman, don't try to spin down the disks. Apart from the fact that disk activity is normal even for "idle" servers, spinning down the disks has been proven to create more problems than it could possibly cure. Your saving in power consumption would also be negligible. – John Gardeniers Oct 28 '10 at 23:52

Have you installed the ProLiant Support Pack from HP? Without it, I don't know if the ProLiant energy saving features kick in...

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  • No I haven't. I will look into it next weekend. Do they help a bit? – Ron Gejman Oct 29 '10 at 2:55

Noise pollution sucks, and you're not going to significantly improve the problem with throttling software.

If you can't get these into a dedicated server room, you could build a noise-containing box around the machines using drywall panels. For each wall, make a sandwich of two panels glued with something gummy to employ constrained-layer damping. Seal the whole thing with caulk. Noise will escape from any small cracks; seal it as best you can. You will need to provide a steady source of cool air, and a large enough exhaust. The air handling will need to be sound insulated, too.

Also pay attention to the conducted physical vibration paths from the hardware to whatever it is mounted to / resting on. Decouple those paths for additional noise abatement. Get a sheet of cheap plywood and set it on top of tennis balls cut in half to make enough feet to support the weight. Cork sheets help too.

You'll roast the hardware alive, inevitably shortening it's lifetime by some large percentage.. but so long as you keep it below the thermal cutoff thresholds, you'll have your computation and maybe your sanity. But don't forget to make good offsite backups of your server oven.

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