Difference between revisions of "Computer Hardware"

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(Hard Disk Drives)
(Hard Disk Drives)
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All new drives are Seagate Constellation Enterprise class SATA drives.  For example, the 2 TB drive  currently $150 on Amazon was the drive of choice in 2013:
All new drives are Seagate Constellation or  Enterprise class SATA drives.  For example, the 2 TB drive  currently $150 on Amazon was the drive of choice in 2013:

Revision as of 07:10, 23 September 2014

Computer systems that run the telescopes, store data, and provide remote analysis for users are currently built in house from standard components selected for the best performance/price ratio. Starting in the spring of 2014 we will try to document the selections here. Typically useful lifetimes for hardware before failure or obsolescence is 3 to 5 years.

Server Chassis

Supermicro 822T-400LPB $424

Supermicro SC822T

This is a 2U rack server that accommodates an ATX motherboard with space for 6 hot-swap SATA drives and 1 full height DVD. It includes a single 400 watt power supply.

Workstation Chassis

Corsair Obsidian Series Black 550D Mid Tower Computer Case $117

Corsair Mid Tower case on

A large case provides exceptional ventilation, ease of access, and quiet operation. USB3 is brought out to the front panel. The interior has many slots for SATA drives and for two full height DVD drives. If rack mounting is not required, it will work splendidly as a server enclosure especially for systems with GPU cards that require high power. The SATA drive carriers do not use screws, and while the drives are not hot swappable, it takes only minutes to replace one without tools.


The Corsair power supplies have been reliable and are quiet. A typical one in recent use is the TX650 available for about $95.

Corsair TX650 on Amazon

Power supplies for the observatories have to be quiet, and should be green with high efficiency. Typical lifetimes have been 3 to 5 years, but some supplies from Antec have had premature failure and are not recommended.


The best CPU is selected at time of purchase based on Passmark ratings from this site:

As of September 2014 the preferred selection is an LGA2011 socket Intel Hex Core I7-5820K running at 3.3 GHz for $580. It is available from Amazon and other suppliers at about $380, an alternative to comparable Xeon processors that are about twice the price.

I7-5820 on

These are supplied without a cooler which is purchased separately. We use the low cost air-cooled Intel Thermal Solution Air $21

Intel LGA2011 cooler

It runs quietly, and is not at risk for use at a telescope where there may be temperature extremes.


We have had good success with motherboards from Supermicro. Currently there are more than 10 in service, some for two years of continuous use. We have had three failures in two years. One was in a system exposed to environmental extremes, and a similar one was in a controlled environment. Both failed after a power disruption even though they were on surge-protected circuitry. The problem could have been with the motherboard itself, or due to a spike from the power supply. We have not had a failure with the preferred power supply noted below.


Supermicro X9SRA Xeon and I7 supports 512 GB of DDR3 memory in 8 sockets, and offers 2x PCI-E 3.0 x16, 1x PCI-E 3.0 x4 (in x8), 1x PCI-E 2.0 x4 (in x8), and 1x PCI-32. It is available through distributors offered by Amazon for about $280. This board has built-in audio.


For the LGA2011 socket motherboard, the required memory is 4x or more 8 GB registered ECC DDR3 modules. Crucial currently recommends 8 GB DDR3 PC3-12800 Registered ECC DDR3-1600 1.5V for $110 each.

Crucial 8GB registered DDR3-1600 ECC

There does not seem to be the requirement to use non-ECC memory with I7 processors that was in the previous chipset.

Hard Disk Drives

All new drives are Seagate Constellation or Enterprise class SATA drives. For example, the 2 TB drive currently $150 on Amazon was the drive of choice in 2013:

Seagate 2 TB SATA ST2000

The 4 TB drive now at $262 would be the choice for new installations in 2014:

Seagate Enterprise Capacity v.4 4TB SATA ST4000

Note that the commodity Seagate Barracuda line is not as reliable and has had in our uses an MTBF of about 2 years. We have not had a Constellation drive failure since implementing them in 2012.