Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Brisbane, Australia
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Case: Norco RPC-230 – This case is a 2RU high x 387mm deep rackmount case. It was the only one of three rack mount cases under 390mm deep that I could find available in Australia. The Norco RPC-430 is a 4RU case and would have occupied more of the rack. While having 6x3.5” + 2x 5.25” bays compared to 4x3.5” and 1x5.25” on the RPC-230, my primary storage was in the NAS so I didn’t need this extra capacity. The RPC-231 is almost identical to the RPC-230 except that it has and 2x3.5” and 2x5.25” bays. As I wasn’t installing a DVD drive in the server I preferred having more internal 3.5” drive bays.The Build
The RPC-230 is a nice solid rack mount case which has been able to accommodate the 2 x SSDs and 1 x 3.5” drive I’ve put in it. It can easily accommodate 2 x 3.5” drives in the two bays above the mother board tray, although they just clear the stock intel CPU cooler (good cable management is critical to avoid contact with the fan) . A third drive can be placed in the other middle bay, but in my case it slightly clashes with the USB3 header feeding my front USB3 port. I could get around this purchasing a low profile internal USB3 adapter cable. The fourth bay in front of the PSU can accommodate a 3.5” drive but the cables will be squashed up against the cables from the PSU.
The individual drive trays are held by two screws and are quite easy to release. They only have holes for 3.5” drives, and then only for the bottom ones and not for the side mounts. There are no anti-vibration mounts, but the case has been solid enough that this hasn’t been an issue so far. I initially mounted my SSDs using just one of the bottom screw holes which was sufficient to hold it. I found that the drive screws supplied with my case were a slightly different thread to my SSDs. I’ve ended up changing over to a SSD adaptor bracket which can accommodate 2xSSDs in one 3.5” bay. The bracket doesn’t have any bottom screw holes and therefore is sitting loose in the drive tray, This is secure enough for me given that the drive doesn’t spin and the server won’t be getting moved around.
In order to install the motherboard or change out the case fans (which you will want to do), the whole hard drive shelf has to be removed. This also involves removing the rack mount ears so that the screws for the shelf can be accessed. The two 80mm case fans are very noisy and only have molex connectors so can’t be connected to the motherboard fan headers without an adapter. I ended up replacing them two Noctua NF-R8 redux-1800 PWM fans which are much better.
The coating to the outside of the case does chip and scratch easily, and you need to be careful with tightening the screws as they are quite soft. The screws are also quite small as well, so you need to be careful not to lose them. The case doesn’t come with a manual so you need to figure out how to take everything apart and where all of the screws go on your own. It’s pretty straight forward though.
One thing to be aware of is that the case can only accommodate a PSU which has a front-to-back airflow path (ie air is draw from the front of the PSU and exhausted out the back). The vast majority of all PSUs now have a perpendicular airflow path (ie air is draw in from the top or bottom of the PSU and exhausted out of the back). The case has no air intake for the PSU on the bottom or top, as most server cases are designed for front to back airflow. This severely limits PSU choice.
Rackmount rails are available for the case but at 20 and 26 inches in length, they are too long for my rack, and kind of defeat the purpose of a short depth case. It also only has USB2 ports on the front of the case and no USB3 ports.
Motherboard: Intel Server Board S1200V3RPL – I required a mATX board to accommodate my TV tuner card and a multi-port LAN card. As the server was going to be located in a store room under my house I wanted something with remote management and KVM capabilities. I didn’t fancy having to carry a monitor and keyboard downstairs and work in the cold if I had to access the BIOS or boot options. I also wanted an onboard Intel NIC. This led me away from consumer boards to a server board. The S1200V3RPL was the cheapest socket 1150 mATX server board I could find and still has plenty of features. It has 4 x PCIe slots, 6xSATA3 ports, 2x 1GB LAN ports, 1 x USB 3 header, 1 x USB2 header, an internal USB2 Type A port which allows you to plug in a USB key or other device, 2 x external USB2 ports and 2 x external USB3 ports. It supports remote management and KVM through the onboard LAN, however I added the AXXRMM4 Remote Management Module which uses its own dedicated LAN port. The motherboard can accommodate up to 32GB of RAM. The BIOS has several fan speed control options, and controls the CPU and system fan headers to keep fan noise to a minimum.
CPU: Intel Xeon® Processor E3-1240 v3 – As I was intending to run a VM lab, I wanted a CPU with virtualisation and hyper-threading support. I went for a Xenon over a Core i7 CPU, as the Xenon was cheaper. I chose the E-1240 V3 over the E1230 V3 as it was only $30 more.
RAM: 2x Kingston 8GB PC3-12800 1600MHz ECC DDR3L RAM - 11-11-11 - Intel Validated ValueRAM – I was pretty much restricted to this RAM for compatibility with the motherboard if I wanted to use ECC RAM.
PSU: Zippy 400W PS-5400HG2 – I was pretty much limited to this PSU as I required a front-to-back airflow path (ie air is draw from the front of the PSU and exhausted out the back) as the case had no PSU intake on the bottom. The only other PSU with this airflow configuration I could find in Australia was the Antec 350W Basiq ATX, however it didn’t have an 8-pin CPU motherboard power plug. The Zippy is a quiet and efficient CPU, and from what information I could find online, appears to be a reliable brand. Unfortunately it isn’t modular so the spare cables take up quite a bit of room and do restrict the airflow at the intake slightly. It comes with 5x SATA plugs, 6 x molex plugs and 2 x GPU plugs.
LAN Card: Intel Ethernet Server Adapter I350-T4 – This is a great quad port 1GB LAN adapter. I wanted to run 2 teamed LAN ports for client access to the server, 2 LAN ports for iSCSI VLAN, and 1 WAN port from my cable modem. It was easily accommodated into case and comes with a low-profile adapter.
Drive Bay: Themaltake Max 5 Duo SATA HDD Rack – One thing missing from the Norco case was a front USB3 port so that I could easily connect an external drive to the front of the server. I also wanted a hot-swap drive bay so that I could plug in a 3.5” or 2.5” drive into the server without needing to open the chassis. The Max 5 Duo combines both the drive bay and USB3 ports. I haven’t tested it so far, but it fits very nicely into the case. The red release tabs on the drive bay doors do stand out though and may not fit with you colour scheme.
Case Fans: 2x Noctua NF-R8 redux-1800 PWM fans – The original case fans supplied with the Norco RPC-230 chassis were extremely loud and could not be connected to motherboard fan headers. I decided to replace them with the Noctuas. I considered the NF-R8 PWM fans but went with the redux version as they were cheaper and I didn’t need the any of the adaptors or accessories. In addition the redux fans are dark grey and blend in with the front of the case compared to the traditional Noctua beige and brown. The difference in noise is night and day, and the sever is now almost silent. The fans have allowed me to utilise the fan control options in the motherboard BIOS.
SSD: 2 x OCZ Vertex 3 120GB SSDs – I had two of these in my main gaming rig in RAID0 and recently upgraded it to a single Samsung EVO 840. I’ve now repurposed the Vertex 3s to the server. I’m currently running them in RAID1 and use them for the host OS and guest VMs.
HDD: Samsung 500GB – I had this drive left over from an external drive and have installed it as a scratch drive and backup drive for the VMs.
HDD: WD Caviar Green 2TB WD20EZRX – I currently have this drive in my HTPC and will repurpose it into the server for use as a backup drive.
netsh interface set interface name="Local Area Connection" admin=disabled net stop "Network List Service" net stop "Network Location Awareness" net start "Network Location Awareness" net start "Network List Service" netsh interface set interface name="Local Area Connection" admin=enabled