SuperMicro Build – Installation

In the previous blog we have talked about the hardware options for the SuperMicro and what you might get for you money. Now you have bought your server, you’ve bought all of your components and your ready to start installing everything. I am not going to do a full step by step guide, rather I will give you all the information you need to do the install yourself, without writing an article that is too long and boring. If you have any questions about the installation then let me know.

It is extremely simple to open up the SuperMicro E200-8D, it is literally a few screws and you’re in. So take the lid off it and let’s get started!

Installing the 3rd Fan

The SuperMicro E200 ships with 2 case fans. These are more than suitable to keep the unit cool, however my systems are not in an air-conditioned room, so for added security on those hot days I opted for a 3rd fan.

There are 7x screws around the face plate that first need to be undone, then you can remove the front panel and access the fans. Don’t forget to remove the blanking plate from the front panel. There’s no point installing a 3rd fan if it can’t suck any air in! Unfortunately this is a very easy step to miss, and I’ve seen it done on multiple occasions.

Just bend the blanking plate backwards and forwards a couple times and the tabs at the bottom will break.

The 3rd Fan is very easy to fit, just a couple screws in the bottom of the fan to secure, then plug it in. The motherboard manual is clearly labelled FAN1, FAN2, FAN3 and FAN4. I have highlighted the picture below to show where the plugs are. I’ve used FAN1, FAN2 and FAN3. I have also paid careful attention to route the fan cables out of the airflow path and tucked them out of the way.

Installing the RAM and NVMe

The RAM and NVMe are very simple to install, so no need for instructions. The NVMe has a single screw and the RAM just drops straight in. Here’s some pictures, just because.

Installing the HDD

This single topic is what has prompted me to write this article. Honestly, this can cause major issues if not installed correctly. First I’m going to show you a few pictures of what NOT TO DO.

In case the above pictures weren’t abundantly clear to you, there are 2 major issues here that could break your system.

  1. The HDD is mounted the incorrect way and the cables are bent and rubbing against the fan housing.
  2. The excess HDD cables are wound up in a roll and jammed in the front of the fans, stopping most of the air from freely circulating over the CPU and NVMe card. This is a great way to overhead your system real fast!

Ok, so now that you’ve seen what not to do, it seems like it should be pretty easy to do it right the first time.

Face the HDD with the cables towards the back of the unit. This will give you a lot of room to play with.

The power and SATA cables are a little bit more difficult to find space but try to place them neatly and don’t obstruct the airflow to your critical components. I’ve seen a few different variations of types of cables that are delivered with the SuperMicros, so depending on what type of cables you have then this could be much easier for you than it was for me.

I actually made my own cables by reducing the size of the cables that were delivered with my unit. If you can find a set of new power cables that are more suitable then please let me know as I would love to buy them. What you need is a Female Molex to Female SATA power cable that is at least 20cm long. This would remove the major bulk of useless cables from your system and leave it nice and open to promote the best air flow.

Here are some pictures of how I configured my system.

Here is a quick comparison of the bad and good installation. In the first picture you can see that the bundle of cables are all but stopping the air circulation. The second picture shows a wide open zone for air to flow freely.

Rack Mount Brackets

One of the reasons I have chosen the SuperMicro E200 in my home lab for its portability, so it might seem a bit weird to then fit it in a rack. There are a couple reasons for this, but mostly it is because I can separate a cool zone and hot zone within my rack and provide better cooling efficiency for my hardware. I think that if it takes me 10min to remove the rack mount brackets then this is a small price to pay for the improved cooling, better security, better protection, it’s easier to use and looks better too.

The rack mount brackets are secured to the side of the unit and when fitted to a rack they provide a physically separate zone that forces cold air to enter in the front and hot air to be vented out the back. The rack mount brackets also provide a secure mounting tray for the power supply.

There are screw holes in the side of the SuperMicro E200 and the rack mount bracets just bolt straight up. It is extremely simple to do. Here are a few pictures to illustrate the installation.

Server Rack

Buying the right server rack can be really hard. At first I purchased a small network cabinet but the length was a problem. My 10Gb switch was too long to fit in this short cabinet, so I had to start looking at other options. A colleague of mine had an old full size server rack that he didn’t need so we swapped our cabinets over. I couldn’t be happier with that decision. Yes the 42RU server rack is large and I don’t need all of the capacity but it has provided me with a unique opportunity to create a “cool zone” within the server rack that feeds cold air into my servers and lets hot air vent out the back. Considering my lab environment is locked up in my garage with no air-conditioning and not a lot of air flow, a full size rack with a controlled cold zone keeps my hardware humming along.

Along with my SuperMicro E200 servers, I have a full size tower server that serves as a NAS, a full length 10Gb switch and an old cheap 2RU server that might come in handy one day.

You can see from the picture below that I have sealed the door with some plastic sheets and in front of the servers there is a 30cm air gap that serves as the cold zone.

023 - IMG_4273

If you look closely in the above picture, you will see that at the top of the rack there is a duct running into the cold zone. This duct feeds cold air to a 150mm hydroponics fan, which pushes approximately 200cfm of air through a water cooled radiator and into the cold zone. This whole setup is electronically controlled via a thermostat that is placed inside the rack. This is system is engaged when the temperature increases past 30 degrees Celsius. This ensures that on those hot days in the garage my lab stays cool.

Home Lab Build Series

IntroductionHome Lab Build – From the Start

Part 1SuperMicro vs Intel NUC

Part 2 – SuperMicro Build – The Components

Part 3SuperMicro Build – The Installation

Part 4SuperMicro Build – BIOS and IPMI

Part 5 – Networking Configuration

Part 6 – VVD – Automated Deployment Toolkit – vSphere, VSAN, NSX and vDP

Part 7 –  VVD – Automated Deployment Toolkit – vRA, vRO, vROps and Log Insight


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8 thoughts on “SuperMicro Build – Installation

  1. Pingback: SuperMicro Build – The Hardware | Lab-Rat

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    • Thanks Mike. It’s on my list of documents to write up. As I write more, it’s getting easier so it shouldn’t take me too long. I want to dismantle the cooling setup and take pictures of the process from the start.
      It may take me a few weeks but I’ll definitely write something up.
      If your not already, Follow me on twitter @TaiRatcliff and I’ll send out the link once it’s ready.

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  5. Hi,

    Nice lab setup, i also looking to build the same lab but i stock on 2 issues:
    1. The noise of the e200/e300 is very loud then the 5028d. Is this true?
    2. The maxium of installation of the drives, what is the maximum of 2,5 inch? Can I put more then 1?

    Thanks

    Ps: I from Belgium English is not my mother language

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    • Hi Simon,
      The noise from the SuperMicro servers is a fairly loud. I’ve had them running on an office desk and they don’t really annoy everyone, but they can be heard. They’re no where near as loud as a server but they are louder than a desktop PC. I am currently investigating the option of quieter fans but there aren’t many options.
      There is only enough mounting space for a single 2.5″ drive + an 80mm NVMe SSD.

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