Fans, Fan Noise and Options

The Xa-Miner is a premier storage node for the ScPrime Distributed Datacenter. We call it a “miner” because you put up SCP coins as Collateral and earn revenues for storage placed on the unit from business customers. They do not participate in Consensus validation. For that, ScPrime requires LOUD, hot and expensive ASIC rigs. Most residences are not built to tolerate the heat and noise of even a single ASIC.

In comparison, the Xa-Miner delivers low heat, volume and electricity consumption as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. As with all computing devices, global supply chains are disrupting the ability to manufacture at scale. We meet this challenge by sourcing components that meet the need even if it means a population of miners with variations in the Bill of Materials.

Current components with variations are motherboard, CPU, system SSD, storage HDD and cooling fans. The software to run an ScPrime node is not intensive, operating nicely under 8GB of memory with trivial CPU performance required. Electricity and power consumption are lower as these two normally combine to generate heat. Where heat does become an issue is the platter based hard drives.

The flagship Xa-Miner is a 4 bay drawer-styled device with enterprise-grade disks in close proximity of each other and always operational/available. This results in a sustained heat profile even when the drives are not transferring data. Without heat remediation, drives operate between 20-30 Celsius at rest, 30-40 in regular use and as high as the mid-50s under heavy load. All drives have a 60 Celsius threshold which may lead to voiding the warranty.

Backblaze studied heat as a drive killer and didn’t find significant correlation with temperature and drive failures. And drive fail rates have fallen over the last decade. Still, keeping the drives cool, means the rest of the components are not bathed in high ambient temperatures and is the easiest way to ensure the Xa-Miner sustains a long and healthy lifespan delivering storage on the ScPrime network.

We’ve had difficulty procuring fan models suited for the Xa-Miner. We’ve also had the unfortunate experience of a motherboard model used in a small population of systems not spinning fans nearly fast enough and causing unrecoverable SSD corruption on the system drive. The Dynatron 80mm fans we currently use to ensure proper airflow are industrial strength, dual ball units that spin at between 3000 and 4500RPM maximum, which is overkill for our need and thus, we have our Integrator set them at between 60-70% from the factory. Still, they result in louder units and customer complaints almost as loud as the fans themselves.

The Solution

Internal testing suggests a chassis fan speed of 2000rpm is adequate to maintain proper cooling temperature on all models. One wrinkle on the majority of our configurations is the Chassis and CPU fan ports are swapped to accommodate the chassis style. To make changes to the fans in question, we will be altering the CPU fan in the BIOS as shown below. To enter the BIOS, you need to have a keyboard and monitor connected directly to the Xa-Miner. Upon restarting the unit, you need to tap the DEL key until the gray Setup window appears. Then, arrow over to H/W Monitor and look down the list for CPU_Fan1 Setting. You will be changing the Target Fan Speed number and then Saving and Exiting (far right). Then go back into the Setup screen and check the RPMs.

If you have the loudest fan model (part number ends in U/spins at 4500rpm max), you can change BIOS settings on the CPU Fan under Hardware Monitoring from 6 (out of a scale of 0-9) to 2 or 3. On part number M models (3000rpm max), it means dropping from 7 to 5.

Finally there is another solution for those who want a quiet solution. We do validate the Noctua NF-A8 PWM, a fan made primarily for gamers. If you are willing to spend up for a fan and have the basic screwdriver skills, it will not void your warranty to do this upgrade.

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