When you’re reading this, the site is being served with brand new hardware. The ZOTAC ION ITX F series motherboard has been replaced with an ASUS AT5IONT-I. Last week I got the memory chip I needed to upgrade the BIOS so that I could install the memory chips I wanted to use. Today I finally got around to replace the old motherboard - and the server is now completely silent. No fans, no moving parts, nothing that can possible make a sound.
There is, however, a slight problem: The CPU is ridiculously hot without the chassis fan connected. Right now the temperature is 82 degrees centigrade and the load on the server (requests per second to Apache and MySQL) is about average. The maximum temperature for the CPU is 100 degrees, so there is still some slack before things turn from hot to meltdown. What will happen when the CPU really has to do some work? I did a few tests, and that’s when it started to get interesting.
Hallvard, Terje and myself have been using vbox-host as a Counter-Strike: Source server lately, adding a few bots and playing the odd half-hour game. The Source server is not multithreaded and hogs only one of the four CPU cores, and with 10 to 12 bots, the core is running at full speed. Interestingly enough, the CPU temperature only increased by about 2 degrees with all the bot slots full and the core completely occupied with moving them around. I honestly thought the CPU would get close to the critical temperature with the core under full load.
This means that, in theory - and maybe even in practice - the server should be able to tag along happily without any fans cooling the CPU. Running too hot will decrease the life time of the CPU, but after reading the D500 series data sheet from Intel, it looks like 82 degrees centigrade is well within the acceptable limits. As long as the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees, Intel says that there will be no damage to the CPU. If it goes beyond that, however, there is no telling what might happen, and at 125 degrees, the CPU will automatically shut down.
So, there you have it - I’ll let the chassis fan stay disconnected for a while and reconnect it if strange things begin to happen.