Challenges of Fitting a 12-year Old Workstation with New Ultra EPYC Parts
There are a few items that I wanted to point out. They are minor, but they are also something I wanted our readers to be aware of should they replicate this concept.
Sun Ultra 24 Motherboard Mounting Standoffs
In 2007, motherboards were a lot less packed than what we have today. As a result, the Sun design team utilized nine ATX motherboard standoffs. Eight of those were in the correct spot. One was, well, less so.
This works via a peg that is affixed through the sheet metal behind the motherboard and is fit into a ring. There is probably a better way to do this, however, during the discovery process I just snapped this out.
Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 USB 3.0 Front Panel Header
This was quite a challenge indeed. I had already put together the system, placed the motherboard, and then went to affix the USB 3.0 front panel header. Disaster struck.
The actual connector for the Kingwin 5.25″ front panel USB 3.0 bay was longer than the motherboard. Most of the front panel headers are perpendicular to the motherboard but on the Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 it is parallel. Gigabyte had to make this design decision to ensure that longer GPUs could be used. The negative with using these two parts together is that it was a tight fit that required installing the USB 3.0 cable before installing the motherboard.
Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 Orientation
The Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 is one of the only air coolers that will fit this case without issue. A challenge is that the heatsink is uni-directional. It is set perpendicular to the socket path. On a workstation motherboard, this blows air from the front of the chassis to the rear of the chassis as one would want.
On a server motherboard, it vents air toward the top of the chassis, which is not what one wants.
Frankly, this is one of those that I will have to fix with a baffle later or find a new heatsink. Adding some ducting may help, but it is not great at the moment. As you can see from the airflow diagram, cooling storage is also a concern here.
Storage and Cooling
I tried two different storage configurations. First, the one I wanted with 4x 3.2TB SAS3 SSDs that can yield up to 4GB/s in sequential read speeds. The Micron S630DC 3.2TB SAS3 drives are running a bit too hot for comfort in this configuration. There is no fan pushing air over the drives here, so there is simply not enough airflow in the 2007 era Sun Ultra 24 workstation.
I may try adding a thin 120mm fan and trying again. Note, since the spacing between drives is very generous, using 10TB WD Red drives worked great. SATA III SSDs work great. The Micron SAS3 drives ran too hot and would not negotiate to 12.0gbps due to the PCB that was realistically designed for SAS1/ SATA II 3.0gbps speeds.
Power Supply Fit
The EVGA SuperNOVA 1000W G3 PSU has a nice Eco mode feature that keeps fans from spinning and making noise at low power levels. This is controlled by a small switch on the unit.
It just so happened that there are little power supply fingers that went in front of the original 530W unit. Simply bending two of these back with a wrench made this fit challenge disappear.
Doing a build like this reminds me of a few things. It is amazing to see how forward-thinking the Sun Microsystems design was in 2007. The Ultra 24, save that black optical drive, looked great and had functionality on par with systems a decade newer.
Another key takeaway is that the consumer desktop space, especially the ATX space, seems extremely stagnant when you do a build like this. Everything fit a little too well. Instead of a few trips to Central Computers, everything just worked out of the box. That is stellar.
Here is the fun part for those looking to replicate this, the Sun Ultra 24 and Ultra 27 systems can be had for around $100. That is about the same cost as a reasonable ATX case these days. Cable management is not as good. On the other hand, it will just work. The payoff is something different than the translucent panels and RGB gaming systems. One gets a cutting edge workstation emblazoned with a giant Sun Microsystems logo.