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[Updated] Obroa-Skai - Fractal Design Define XL R2, Supermicro X10SL7, Xeon 1240

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With luck, by tomorrow I'll have all of the parts to be able to carry out my new build. So I thought in the meantime I'd start my build thread and then update as and when things kick into gear.


The new machine is to replace a HP Microserver N40L which I've been running for 18 months or so. It has been faultless, but lacking a little in horsepower, and not really suitable for all of the VM related possibilities that unRAID 6 will bring. It has a 4TB parity drive, 1 4TB data drive, 2 x 3TB data drives, 2 x 1.5 TB data drives and a 250GB cache drive. I have it hooked up to an external 4 bay eSATA enclosure which is currently housing the 4TB data drive.


Originally I planned to repurpose my seldom used desktop machine, by upgrading the motherboard and cpu (was going for an i5) and fitting a couple of drive cages (a 5x3 and a 3x2). I was planning to keep the case and power supply and reuse 8GB of RAM that I had in the Microserver.


It turned out that the power supply (being a few years old) isn't ideal for unRAID use. So a new PSU went on the list. Then I realised that using the ECC RAM from the Microserver would prove troublesome with an i5 (only a few (1?) models of i5 support ECC), which directed me towards a Xeon and hence a Supermicro board. They went on the list as well.


I've gone for the X10SL7 because of the built in LSI 2308 controller. That, combined with the on board SATA ports gives me enough connections for now and a decent amount of future expansion.


By now the only part of my desktop that I was planning to keep was the case. That case is a Coolermaster Centurion 5 (I think), that is about 5 years old and has 5 x 5.25" drive bays. I had planned to add 1 5x3 and 1 3x2 drive cages, to give me room to install the 7 drives that I currently have. The cost of the cages would be ~£100 excluding delivery.


I had a look around and found the Fractal Design Define XL R2 case for about the same cost as the drive cages. It has 8 drive bays, with room for another 4 by use of an extra internal cage (which I've also ordered). They're all internal but I don't do much drive swapping so it's no hardship. It also has 4 5.25" bays, so there is the option for a 5x3 or (2 3x2) cages later on.


I'm still planning to use the RAM from my Microserver. It's a Kingston KVR1333D3E9SK2/8G - 2 x 4GB 1333Mhz ECC kit. I believe it should play nicely with the motherboard and the Xeon. If it does then I might end up adding the 16GB version of the kit as well to give me 24GB in total. If it doesn't then I'll probably go for 16GB of whatever does work (not looked into that yet).


The build as it stands is:


New parts

  • Fractal Design Define XL R2 case
  • Seasonic SS-550RM 550W power supply
  • Supermicro X10SL7-F motherboard
  • Intel Xeon E3-1240v3 CPU


Existing parts

  • Kingston KVR1333D3E9SK2/8G RAM
  • plus my current disks


The only part I'm waiting for is the motherboard. Hopefully it will be with me tomorrow, March 21st, and then I can set about putting it all together. I will attempt to take a few pics and post them when I update this post.



Update 24th March


Well the board arrived, so at the weekend I set about putting it all together.



That's the case, extra lower hdd cage, PSU, motherboard, Xeon CPU and some Silverstone and NZXT power/SATA cables. Excuse the laundry!


I really like the case, it's very well made and nicely finished. Not to mention huge. It comes with 3 140mm fans already installed - 1 in the front panel, 1 at the rear and 1 at the bottom. There are also plenty of other mounting options, either for moving the existing fans or adding other ones if required. For now I've left them alone.


First thing I did was mount the PSU, it's a hybrid modular unit, so the motherboard power cables are hardwired and the other molex/sata etc cables can be added/removed as required. To start with I just mounted the PSU and routed the MB cables through the cut outs in the motherboard tray.


Next job was to install the processor and cooler onto the motherboard and then mount it in the case.



Motherboard and PSU installed. You can see 2 of the 3 case fans. The third is to the right, in front of the hdd cages.


The hardest part of the whole thing was getting the motherboard power cables connected. They are only barely long enough to reach when going through the cutouts and around the back of the board.


It doesn't show in this pic but I actually mounted the cpu cooler upside down, as in the label in the centre is upside down as you look it. Because of that the fan cable doesn't reach to the FAN A connector on the motherboard (which I believe is for the cpu fan, there's no specific mention in the motherboard manual). Reason for that was that I didn't notice FAN A to begin with and when I fitted the cooler I had the board in front of me with the ports to the right. So for now I've connected it to the FAN 1 connector and am waiting for an extension cable to arrive so I can connect it to FAN A.


After this point I got a bit carried away and forgot to take pictures :o but that said all that I did for the rest of the first day was to add some RAM - for testing I used the 2GB ECC that had originally come out of my Microserver. I also connected up the front panel connectors - power and reset switches, power led and USB 3 connections. There are front panel connectors for USB 2 and HD Audio that go unused simply because there's nowhere on the board to connect them. Can understand the lack of audio on a server board, but another USB 2 header would have been nice.


Once that was all connected up, it was time to see if it all worked. I was doing the build in our dining room, so I didn't have a monitor handy. So it was a chance to try out the IPMI features of the board. I ran a network cable from the IPMI port to a powerline network adapter, turned on the power to the PSU, gave it a chance to warm up then found the ip address it was using from my router and pointed my browser at it from my laptop.


I had to turn on compatibility view I IE on Windows 8 as without it the page kept complaining that I needed to update java, which I didn't.


Using the remote console I was able to confirm that the board and CPU worked. At this point it was practically silent, but then there was only the cpu fan running.


Once I was happy that all was well I took the opportunity, whilst I had no drives installed and whilst I remembered, to flash the LSI controller to IT mode. That all went without a hitch.


At that point I ran out of time for the first day, had been about 2 and a half hours up to this point. I'd been taking my time and enjoying the process of building a pc, it has been a few years since I built one.


On Sunday I carried on from where I'd left off. First job of the day was to shutdown my Microserver and pull the RAM, drives and Startech SATA/eSATA card (don't have any great use for that at the moment now, but have installed it in the new machine anyway).


I pulled the 2GB DIMM from the new machine and replaced it with the 2x 4GB DIMMs from the Microserver. I put them into the 2 black memory slots, so Channel A slot 1 and Channel B slot 1. I put the 2GB back in the Microserver so that it's in a suitable state to probably sell on.


I installed my drives into the drive trays and then fitted those in to the case. Cache and parity at the top, then data drives at the bottom. For now I haven't installed the extra lower drive cage. Will probably do that later in the week.


I cabled the drives up using 2 of these NZXT SATA cables https://www.nzxt.com/product/detail/57-cb-sata44p-premium-cable.html and 2 of these Silverstone SATA power cables http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=304


I thought they would help me keep things nice and neat, and they do up to a point. But the SATA cables are quite inflexible, especially as each NZXT cable is 4 SATA cables bundled together. It cause a few problems trying to get the connectors into the ports on the motherboard and keep them there whilst trying to tuck the excess cable away nicely.


I had similar problems with the Silverstone SATA power cables, these are a male SATA power connector to 4 x female connectors. Un fortunately the male connector is quite bulky and is a little awkward to tuck away nicely. Also the cable between connectors is quite stiff and the gap between connectors not ideal for the distance between drives, so it took a bit of effort to bend the cables to get the connectors hooked up to the drives.


Again I had another issue where I found the PSU cables a little too short for how I wanted to run them. In this case it was with the PSU -> 2x SATA power, for connecting to the drive power cables. A combination of the length of the cable and the drive power cable construction have meant that I've had to have that cable dangling loose, which might be an issue when I fit the extra lower drive cage.


I also connected the 3 case fans to the fan controller built in to the case. I did this having been advised in another thread here not to connect them to the motherboard connectors.


At this point it was time for another test, to power up and make sure the RAM was seen by the board and that all of the drives were found by the LSI controller.


On the first boot the RAM was fine but one of the drives wasn't detected. Am pretty sure that was due to a SATA cable coming loose, most likely whilst I was trying to tuck them away as mentioned above. I shutdown, re-seated the SATA cables and tried again. This time all of the drives were detected.



Here it is during this first run with the drives connected. It's not a great pic but you can see the troublesome SATA data and power cables.


As everything seemed to be working OK I thought it time to try booting unRAID. I plugged my 4GB Sandisk Cruzer Fit flash drive, with unRAID 5.0.4m, into the internal USB 3 port, pushed the button and watched (via IPMI remote console) the boot up, selecting safe mode.


It all worked great. unRAID started, I was able to connect to the web gui, there were no problems shown so I started the array. All fine.


So I shutdown again, put the sides on the case and fired it back up. This time letting it boot in normal mode to make sure that my plugins all loaded. Which they did.


I left it running on the dining room table for the rest of the day, before taking it upstairs to it's new home.


Things to do

  • Fit the CPU cooler fan extension, and connect it to FAN A on the motherboard.
  • Install the extra lower hdd cage. This will involve removing the bottom fan in the case and repositioning it. Either at the top or, most likely, in the front panel with the other one so that it blows across the drives.
  • Upgrade the cache drive. I just use the cache as plugin drive really. It's the 250GB unit that was originally in the Microserver. With plans to run VM's etc I think I'll upgrade it for a 1TB, probably a WD Blue.
  • Possibly change the SATA data cables. I think I made a mistake going for the bundled data cables. The inflexibility of them makes me concerned about a connector working loose. I might try and find some more flexible ones and/or cable the drives individually.
  • Possibly change the SATA power cables. Not so much of a concern more that I'm just not entirely happy with the final look and fit.
  • An alternative to both of the above is to try mounting the drives the other way up and then run the cables from bottom to top instead of top to bottom. That might allow better cable routing


I also do think I want to get some more RAM. I'll probably get the 16GB kit that is counterpart to the 8GB kit that I already have for 24GB total.


Overall I'm really pleased with it. I haven't done anything too taxing with it yet. But the cpu horsepower that it has now will allow me to enable transcoding in Plex. I'll also be able to experiment with VM's with unRAID 6. Am waiting to 6 beta 4 before moving over.


One other thing to note, as it stands now it is damn near silent. The case fans, connected to the cases fan controller, are on the medium setting and I can't hear them. I kept having to go up and put my hand by the rear fan vent to feel for air movement to check that it was still powered up :)



The finished (for now) build. Still with the plastic film on the front of the case!


Update March 29th



Have now installed an extra 16GB of RAM for 24GB in total. Also added a 1TB WD Blue which will replace my current 250GB cache drive.


I decided not to move the fan connection, after seeking advice from Supermicro and being told that the way I have it cabed is correct.


I swapped out the NZXT bundled SATA cables for individual Startech ones that are latched. I'm now much happier with how much tidier the cabling is. I'm also much more confident on the connections. To accommodate the new cables I decided to turn the top drive cage around. It means that to add or remove a drive I have to remove the cage, but as it is only a couple of thumbscrews it's not too much of a hardship.


You can also see that I've fitted the extra lower drive cage and moved the lower fan to the front of the case.

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First part of the build is done, server has been up and running all day. So far all seems great :)


Will post a proper update soon, but the initial impressions are


The case is great, really nicely made and big.

Xeon is nice and fast - haven't done anything to stress the server yet but just general operations are much more swift.

It's quiet! Have the cpu cooler and 3 case fans running and it's the quietest tower machine I've ever had.

PSU cables could do with being a little longer, that's probably due to it being a larger case than expected for the PSU.


So far very pleased, more info and a few pics to come

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As I've noted in a couple other posts, the Fractal cases are VERY well made for the price ... and run remarkably quiet with their excellent acoustic insulation.


You also made another observation that's common with this case -- it's "big"  :)


Despite the fact that the dimensions are published, so there shouldn't be any surprises, it always "feels" bigger than expected.  Not a bad thing ... just an observation.


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Glad you were able to move from one pc running unRAID to a new pc/case/etc running the same version & plugins without any hiccups.


I recently moved everything to a new case, and was as concerned about getting all the cabling right/etc, and I wasn't even upgrading!


Looks good, now you need to find somewhere to tuck it away, and forget all about it :)

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I'd definitely relocate the bottom fan to the front instead of the top => you've got plenty of ventilation for the motherboard with the CPU fan and rear fan ... the extra air across the drives is a much better choice.


As you know from our other discussion r.e. the fan connectors, it's likely but not absolute that FANA is the correct connector for the CPU fan.    Boot to the BIOS and look in the power management/monitoring sector (assuming it shows this) and see what it currently shows for the CPU fan speed.  If it's already showing the correct rpm, then it's detected it okay as is, and there's no need to use the extension.  If not, of course you want it on the right connector so it will correctly control the speed.


As for SATA cables -- I'd get locking cables of the correct lengths.  I like Monoprice for their excellent pricing; but their length choices are somewhat limited.    These guys have cables in far more different length choices (6", 8", 10", 12", 14", 16", 18", etc.) -- and also sell hard-to-find left-hand cables in the same lengths in case there are any spots where these would be better:  http://www.cpustuff.com/latching-sata-cable/


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Thanks Gary, useful information as always.


I agree that the front is the better place for the fan, so I'll look into moving it there next time I have the case open.


I did look in the IPMI settings to see if fan speeds were reading but I can't remember if it specifically stated cpu fan or not. I do remember there was only 1 fan listed with a speed (at the time of checking) of 900rpm. I'm going to fit the extension anyway - I've ordered it so I'm going to use it lol.


I like those SATA cables you linked to, couldn't quite get my head around whether I would want left or right angled without having the machine in front of me. As I'm based in the UK I've found some alternatives - http://uk.startech.com/Cables/Drive/SATA/18in-Latching-Round-SATA-Cable~LSATARND18 - and have ordered 4 each of 6 inch, 12 inch and 18 inch lengths.


Have also got an extra 16GB RAM and a 1TB WD Blue for a new cache/apps/VM drive on order.


Will post updated pics as and when I get things fitted.

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The extra memory, replacement SATA cables, fan extension and 1TB WD Blue to replace my current cache drive have been delivered.


My next steps are

[*]Add the fan extension so that I can connect the cpu cooler to the FANA header Not doing this now following response from Supermicro

[*]Install the extra 16GB of memory to take it up to 24GB

[*]Swap out the SATA cables for the new latching ones.

[*]Move the bottom case fan to the front and install the extra drive cage where the fan was (still waiting for drive trays to turn up)

[*]Add the WD Blue and run a couple of preclear cycles on it to prepare it for replacing my cache drive.


I've also just seen that v6 beta 4 might be released soon, so once the hardware work is done I might swap over to that.

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I'd do #2 - #5 on your list.


However, I noticed that in the manual for the predecessor to your board, it details the FAN1-FAN4 and FANA connections ... and FANA is not actually the CPU fan header (at least on that board).  It shows FAN1 thru FAN4 as "CPU/System" headers ... implying they're all monitored and controlled, so any of them can be used for the CPU ... and FANA is designated for I/O card fans (some add-on cards have fans that can be externally connected).    Not sure if that all carries forward to your board -- but it seems the CPU fan is working fine as connected, so I'd just leave it as is.


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Thanks for the info gary.


I've decided to stop speculating and have emailed Supermicro to ask what they recommend.


Will report back when I get a response.



Have heard back from Supermicro, they said that my current configuration is correct and that FAN1 will do just fine.


So I'll leave that as it is.

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Rotating the top drive cage was a nice idea -- lets you use much shorter cables and makes it look a good bit neater.    And the extra drive cage fits very nicely (I was curious just how tight it might be).


Overall a VERY nice build.


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Maybe I'm missing something, but shouldn't the HDD cabling be facing the other side of the case?


Take a look at the pictures in this review:




You can mount the drives facing either direction ... it's just a matter of personal preference.  There's no "right" or "wrong" way.    Personally, I prefer the way Peter has mounted them, as it's much simpler to remove/replace a drive (although in the sideways facing cage, he has to remove a couple thumbscrews first).

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Yeah you could mount the drives either way. To me it makes sense to be able to access the drives and cabling by only having to remove 1 side panel.


If they were the other way round then both side panels would have to come off to be able to access the cables.


Now, if there were some back planes that could mount to the cages, that the drives could slot into then that would be a nice thing indeed!

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Quick update.


The new server has been running, in its updated condition, for over a week now with no issues whatsoever.


I upgraded to unRAID 6 beta 4, and have an Arch Linux VM, with 4GB RAM and 2 vcpus, running which is hosting an instance of nZEDb and Plex Media Server.


I have APCUPSD, Sickbeard, Couchpotato, NZBGet and MySQL (MariaDB) plugins running directly on unRAID. I could put those in the VM as well but am quite happy with those "core" applications running as they are.


The only issues I've had were with a couple of the plugins (APC and MySQL) not playing nice with beta 4. Took a bit of hacking to get them in a state where I'm happy with them until they can be updated with versions properly written for beta 4+.


I really am very pleased with the new build.


The only disappointing thing is that after contacting Fractal Design (when I found out about the extra drive cage not including drive trays) and being told that they were going to send me some. I've not received the trays nor have I had a response to any emails to them in the last 2 weeks. I may well end up having to order the extra trays and screws myself and take the hit on the postage.


Knowing my luck, the minute I do that, the ones they've said they will send will turn up!

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Well I've gotten fed up with Fractal Design not sending me the promised drive trays, and really fed up with the complete lack of communication from them.


So I've just placed an order for the trays, an accessory pack (just for the drive screws) and 4 sets of rubber grommets (just in case the trays I've ordered don't come with them).


An order total of €10.10, with a shipping cost of €17.90.


For anyone else considering ordering spare parts from Fractal Design (fractal-design-shop.de I can't comment on the US one), please have a good long think about everything you might need and order it all at once to save on the shipping costs.


Although that wouldn't have helped in my case, as (at the time of ordering) there was nothing to say that the extra drive cage wouldn't come with trays or screws etc, and the product image showed the cage with trays installed.

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I always hate it when the shipping costs are more than the actual product -- a fairly common thing with small, lightweight parts.    But this specific case is even more frustrating, as CLEARLY Fractal should include both the trays and the screws with the cages.  WHY would anyone want an extra cage without the trays so you can use it ?? !!  :)


... and the trays DO come with the cage on the US site (it's clearly stated this is the case).    I wonder, however, if they also include the screws  8) 8)    [Next time I buy a Fractal case, I'll likely find out the answer to that]


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Finally got the extra drive trays, accessory pack and extra grommets. Turns out I didn't need the extra grommets as the trays do have them installed.


I have to say that the Fractal Design support experience has been pretty poor. To say that they would send the trays out to me, and then to not send them and not reply to any enquiries is very disappointing to say the least. Although they were quite happy to respond to me placing a new order for the parts.


But, I'm now set for the eventual addition of more drives and shouldn't have any need to attempt to deal with them again.


On the plus side - the server is running absolutely fine. Drives are nice and cool. Kind of disappointed that I've run out of "tinkering" to do  ;D


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Kind of disappointed that I've run out of "tinkering" to do  ;D


:)    Well ... you could always replace all your drives with new 6TB units  8)

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I will agree with you on the Fractal Design communication front, I live in the UK also and I have a fractal design define mini. I sent a support request to them inquiring about spares availability in the UK. I never heard back so I managed to find the information myself with a lot of googling. (in short you can only order them from the german online store with mega postage costs)


Then 2 weeks after I emailed them I received an email saying my support request had been logged and assigned a ticket number, someone would be in touch in the next 24 hours. Great....


Then a week later I got the same message with a different support number...


Then about another week and a half later I got a message from the support team telling me that I had to order parts from the german based eu store. Thanks Fractal, that's service. It's not like the case is £70 or anything!

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More Fractal Design related disappointment to report  :(


Having received the accessory pack, which I bought purposely to get hold of the screws for the drives, when I finally got round to looking inside the accessory pack I found that the drive screws were missing! >:(


I should have checked as soon as it arrived but just didn't get round to it (6 month old twins get in the way of trivial things like that).


I emailed FD and this time have had a reply!! They said they would send the missing screws out to me, and I've also had a UPS tracking email, which can only be for those screws (unless they've finally decided to send the promised drive trays!).


At this point I'm not entirely sure what to expect when the man from UPS turns up in a couple of days time. It could be the screws or it might be something completely different.

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