If you haven’t read part 1 of this story, you’re going to want to check it out. Just to catch you up, this is a build for Computational Fluid Dynamics, which can be extremely demanding on the CPU.
With our tight deadline in place, we weren’t able to get the level of cooling we were hoping for, as there just aren’t many compatible coolers available in SA. That’s not to say that Intel’s standard LGA3647 coolers were preventing the CPUs from reaching incredible levels of performance, but they did feel like just a necessary compromise for the time.
Thankfully we were able to replace them a few weeks later, which meant that we could import a pair of coolers that were up to our client’s – and our own – standards.
Once we placed the order for the coolers from Europe, we had some logistical considerations to address. Our client works in Pretoria, and our workshop is in Cape Town. Downtime for his work is expensive, and we needed to keep it to an absolute minimum. His case has heavy glass side panels, and shipping can be expensive.
A decision needed to be made between flying our builder, Pierre, over to Pretoria for the installation, or having the massive case shipped to Cape Town and back.
The problem with the first option was that we would also need to factor in flight expenses, car rental, and accommodation for Pierre, and there was also the risk of getting on a plane in late 2020.
In the end we figured the best option was to use the fastest shipping in both directions, mitigating the cost by removing the windows beforehand. Thankfully they came in cardboard boxes that could be used to cushion the rest of the computer on the way here.
The shipping of both the computer and the coolers would need to be coordinated to ensure no time was wasted, and we’d need to replace the coolers quickly enough that we could properly stress test the upgraded system.
After a week or so, we received the coolers:
Noctua is pretty well known for its colour scheme, which was carefully selected to coordinate with absolutely nothing on the market.
To be fair, they’re also known for producing the best CPU air coolers currently available.
This round of logistics was much smoother than we’d previously experienced, and we received the PC shortly afterwards.
Spot the difference
Pierre and Damien really blazed through this installation. Keep in mind that the process is completely different from standard desktop cooler installation, and they needed to do it twice, after doing it twice in reverse.
Even having tested the new configuration as thoroughly as we did the first time around, we managed to ship it out within a day of receiving it, and our client was back in action not too long after that.
Coolers are often overlooked in systems like these. You wouldn’t think upgrading from one pair of air coolers to another pair of air coolers would do much of anything, but the results were exactly what we’d hoped for. Not only could these CPUs absolutely crush the tasks that they would be used for, the noise and temperatures at full load are on par with every other PC we’ve built. With all 48 cores maxed out, it sounds like an ordinary desktop at idle, and the temperatures sit around 43°C. This computer itself at idle is near silent, even with the side panels off.
Most South Africans don’t need this kind of computing power to begin with, and those that do are happy to settle with the noise and heat that come with server grade components. This computer was designed to be a rarity – data centre power in a desktop PC form factor. Now it feels like a PC too.
It’s almost sad to bid farewell to one of our greatest creations, but it’s really satisfying to know that it’s being put to use the way it deserves.
Plus, there’s still space in that chassis for a mini-ITX motherboard, and we have a feeling we’ll be filling that void before 2021 is over.