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The clustered sounds of silence

Lisa and Bart Simpson sit atop a mountain.

Lisa: What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Bart: Piece of cake.  [claps with one hand]
Lisa: No, Bart, it’s a 3000-year-old riddle with no anwer.
It’s supposed to clear your mind of conscious thought.
Bart: No answer?  Lisa, listen up!  [claps with one hand]

Ah, the Simpsons. Anyway, the fellas over at ClusterMonkey have a post detailing an approach to build a silent clusters. Silent as in no moving parts, Apple Cube silent.

To date, we have built two systems (apart from a bunch of HTPCs). The first one, the one we will describe in more detail below, employed “desktop” hardware, that is, hardware not specifically directed to typical HPC demands (no ECC memory and internal network cards of dubious quality). The reason behind this was of course to keep costs down on the first prototype. However, once this system had been assembled, and once we realized it was working, we put together a system using more “HPC adapted” hardware; Quad-Core AMD Opteron Processor 2376 HE and a Tyan mainboard: Thunder n3600W (S2935). We wish to acknowledge AMD Sweden for providing us with the CPUs.

Our systems have shown that it is indeed possible to build silent personal clusters. We have used a novel (at least it has not been used in any commercial systems we are aware of) cooling technique which circumvents some of the problems related to the more common ways to cool CPUs and other hot components. We have also showed that systems based on this cooling method can be made at low cost, no complicated methods or materials are required. They are also more energy efficient than conventional systems for two reasons; (i) The fans by themselves draw some energy, and by reducing the number of fans a small amount of energy is saved; (ii) By tunneling the heat to a confined channel it is a lot easier to get rid of the heat – the cost for air conditioning can be greatly reduced and; (iii) For the same reason as in the previous point the confined channel will simplify recuperation of the otherwise wasted heat for useful purposes. The last two points will be especially important in large scale applications, if the cooling technology is adapted to cool computers in full height rack cabinets.

Cool experiment.

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