[Beowulf] longevity of 1U servers?

David Mathog mathog at caltech.edu
Mon Feb 9 09:32:13 PST 2009

The market seems to have gone over pretty much completely to 1U compute
nodes, with 2U or higher reserved for head nodes or other storage.  The
other trend is towards constant upgrading on relatively short time
scales, with nodes being replaced every couple of years.   Which makes
me wonder what sort of longevity one would expect for 1U servers made in
the last few years.

Some of us have to keep our hardware running a very long time, and I'm
concerned that a lot of the 1U hardware isn't going to hold up in the
long haul.  I have some 2U nodes which are still cranking along in their
7th year.  (Yes, it is well past time to replace them.)  In that
interval around 5 80mm fans (case or power supply, of 80, these were all
rated at 50000 hours MTBF) have been replaced, most only in the last few
years, and 1 disk out of 20 failed (in the 7th year).   My limited
experience with (older) 1U nodes was that the shrieky little fans were
failure prone and didn't move enough air to keep the innards of the 1U
case as cool as a 2U case.  Heat is bad for longevity.

Realistically, how long should one expect current 1U servers to last?


David Mathog
mathog at caltech.edu
Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech

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