Building a mini cluster – Part 10: Adding the finishing touches

Another few weeks have gone by and since the last update, the mini cluster build has been completed.
Before anything else, let’s go through a few photo series detailing the most interesting parts of this final stretch.

Buttons,button, buttons….

Every serverboard has two push buttons connected to it: a large 19mm power button with a circular power LED and a 16mm reset button with a dot LED showing disk activity. With 6 motherboards in a chassis, that makes for twelve buttons and 24 cable pairs. Suddenly, that’s a lot of cables!

Half way through…

Lot’s of fiddly cabling…

Some leads need insulation tape

All done!

Enough space for the cables here…

… between the boards and the fans

Connecting the Hard disks

Now that the buttons are all cables up, the last components to add are of course the hard disks.
On these motherboards, the power cable for the SATA disk also comes from the motherboard. I am using the cables that were supplied with the boards even though they are a bit on the long side.

As is p(l)ainly visible on the images below, I seriously under-estimated the SATA cable management needs for this build…  The server boards are only about 5mm beneath the ridges where the disk plateau will rest. It took quite a bit of massaging the cables to get everything to sit comfortably.

But in the end, with the application of some “strong persuasion”, I was able to set the disk plateaus in place.

The hardest part was keeping track of what cable should go to what disk

So I ended up putting little number stickers on the connectors.

A Finished Compute Pod

Finally, after all this time, the green compute pod is completed!
The horrible cable mess is clearly visible through the transparent acrylic…
Lesson learned!

Top view with the double decker disk plateau

The fan filters are not yet applied, leaving the blue fans clearly visible

Yes… It’s another fine mess I have gotten myself into…

Fan filters in place and all servers up and running! Really like how the buttons turned out

A view from the back

Now that all pods are completely assembled, time to cable everything up.

Even though there is still somewhat of a mess with all those network cables, I am actually quite happy with the result here. A single power lead goes from the power pod to each compute pod to provide all the needed power and all the server board IO ports are easily reachable. I like it!

The white numbers on the blue pod were not planned, but when I peeled off the protective plastic from the acrylic, these numbers stayed behind and I kind of like the effect.

I did foresee two power sockets on the compute pods: the second unused hole is there in case I want to add some extra LED lights in the cases, and I would want to be able to switch those lights on and off, independently of the servers. However, considering the cable mess already present, I do not think I will go for it. Still: it’s always good to have options.

Detail of server board IO port access

Network and power cabling

A nice and clean power distribution setup

The full view from the back

The final result

And here it is, the finished mini cluster:

LED’s make everything better!

After-Build Analysis

When I started this project, I was fully aware there were going to be a lot of new things to learn. I have never been a DYI kind of person and with 20/20 hind-sight, I would certainly do certain things different now. That begin said, I am actually quite pleased with the end result: the cluster itself performs very well and using the acrylic really makes it a nice thing to look at too!

For anyone who is thinking about doing something similar, I would say: “Go for it!”

Some parting thoughts:

  • The acrylic is very nice and easy to work with, though expensive
  • Drilling aluminium is slippery: get a good drill stand
  • LEDs are FUN!
  • Those magnetic fan filters really work well and look good to boot!
  • If using crimp-on cable leads, invest in a good crimping tool (I now wish I had)
  • Do not under-estimate the space you need for cable management
  • Shopping around really makes a difference
  • Try to get everything in as little shipments as possible

Total Spend

With a total spend of 3.314,91 EURO, I came out well below the 4.000,00 EURO budget.
Building the cases turned out to be less expensive then I had feared. Even with the expensive choice for arcylic, over 65% of the budget was spent on the server hardware and since in the end, that is the most important part of a cluster, that is a “good thing”.
I will of course be able to re-use most if not all of the tools I purchased, so maybe that almost 7% should not be included in the total cost..? You decide!
Most surprisingly, I spent over 150,00 EURO on shipping and administration costs. That is almost 5% of the total cost!
This age of online ordering definitely has it’s advantages and I am pretty sure that I would never have been able to source all the components I needed so efficiently without the internet, but it’s definitely a significant amount.


And here is the final spend table:



Shop PartCode Description Amount Price
CarTFT.Com Mitac PD10BI Rev 1 Intel Bay Trail Celeron J1900 4×2.42Ghz 12 72.70
CarTFT.Com   Verzending en afhandelng 1 13.53 CT51264BF160BJ Crucial PC3-12800 4GB 24 23.50 WD5000LPVX Western Digital Blue 500GB SATA 6Gb/s 12 42.50   Verzending en afhandelng 1 5.85 GS108GE Netgear GS108 8-Poorts Gigabit Switch Duo Pack 1 73.00 DA5M3X40 Afstandsbus 1x binnen-1x buiten M3 40mm 56 0.27   Verzending en afhandelng 1 7.00 1293106 MeanWell RSP-500-12 AC/DC 500W 12V/41.7A 1 141.14 1082735 DC aansluitkabel tweelingkabel 13 2.30 735440 Ringkabelschoen blauw 1.5 – 2.5mm M3.5 8 0.63 735327 Ringkabelschoen rood 0.5 – 1.0mm M3.5 8 0.52 844519 Krimptang 1 6.29 1218498 NK 103 S-500 5mm Zwart 1 9.99   G104 Free Shipping 20pcs/lot New PC Desktop Computer Case ATX Power On Reset Switch Cable With LED Light 2 8.14   Verzending en afhandelng 1 22.02 1211537 VD draad Lasklem 5-Draads 1 24.95 1232 Set Montagedraad 1 19.95 1281460 DC connector 2 0.86 1047548 Netwerkkabel CAT 5e – U/UTP 16 0.92   Verzending en afhandelng 1 3.95   Assortiment monsters 1 25.00 302613 Noiseblocker BlackSilentFan X1 – Ventilatorhuis – 80 mm – zwart 12 6.72   Verzending en afhandelng 1 7.10   GQ19F-11E 19mm 1NO 1NC momentary LED light Ring Lamp type metal push button switch with flat round 14 2.27   GQ16F-11D 16mm 1NO 1NC momentary LED light Dot Lamp type metal push button switch with flat round 14 2.16   Verzending en afhandelng 1 47.74   Led Houders 5mm (50stuks) 1 5.95   Verzending en afhandelng 1 2.00   Triple 80mm I/D Computer Dust Filter – Blue – non-ferous 1 11.63   Triple 80mm I/D Computer Dust Filter – Green – non-ferous 1 11.63   120mm Square Computer Dust Filter Non-Ferrous Red/White 1 5.27   Verzending en afhandelng 1 18.12 4853 Wipschakelaar 1 2.60 1063985 Wipschakelaar 3 4.80 1068124 Kabelbinder set 3 7.95 1281460 DC plug right angle type <br>bore 2.1 10 0.83 1290264 DC Chassis 10 0.95 1064826 C14 Chassisdeel 1 1.50 Afst-2xbin-M3-30 Afstandsbus 2x binnen M3 30mm 8 0.25 Afst-2xbin-M3-15 Afstandsbus 2x binnen M3 15mm 14 0.15 DA5M3X05 Afstandsbus 1x binnen-1x buiten M3 40mm 48 0.13 Afst-2xbin-m3-10 Afstandsbus 2x binnen M3 10mm 4 0.15   Verzending en afhandelng 1 4.00   Dremel hulpstuk bovenfrees tafelmodel 1 39.95   Dremel borenset 7-delig 1 7.39   Hoekprofiel 20 x 20 x 2mm 1000mm aluminium 1 4.29   Dremel Accessoire vingerfrees 652 1 8.89 439-2-3 M3 / verp 250 stuks – lage zeskantmoer 1 6.05 7380-2-3×12 M3x12 / verp 100 stuks – laagbolschroef 2 3.03 7380-2-3×6 M3x6 / verp 100 stuks – laagbolschroef 2 2.18 7380-2-4×6 M4x6 / verp 100 stuks – laagbolschroef 1 12.10 9500-3 M3 / verp 100 stuks – sluitring (PA6) 4 0.80 21150-0300 M3 x 0,5 (set van 3) / per set – Handtappen HSSE-V 1 47.63 3950/9-PKL Inbussleutelset 9 delig / per set – RVS (INOX) 1 57.60 81930-0100 Rateltapkrukje Nr. 1 / per stuk – Voor tappen M3-M10 1 17.64 90120-0250 Phantom Non-Ferro Snijolie EP 250ml 1 19.99 Faston-10B Vlakstekker 2,8-0,5mm Female Blanco 150 0.06 Faston-14 Vlakstekker 4,8-0,5mm Female Blanco 25 0.10 Faston-15 vlakstekker 4,8-0,8mm Female Blanco 25 0.10 Faston-20 Vlakstekker 6,3-0,8mm Female Blanco Mid 10 0.12 Krimpkous-3-122cm-zwart Krimpkous 3:1 3mm Zwart 4 1.85 krimpkous-6-122cm-zwart Krimpkous 3:1 6mm Zwart 1 2.65   Verzending en afhandelng 1 4.00   aluminium profielen op maat 1 88.60   verzending en afhandelng 1 12.10   acryl op maat 1 194.64   verzending en afhandelng 1 8.07 Afst-2xbin-M3-30 Afstandsbus 2x binnen M3 30mm 2 0.25 Afst-2xbin-M2-20 Afstandsbus 2x binnen M3 20mm 8 0.22 DASM3x50 Afstandsbus 1x binnen-1x buiten M3 40mm 8 0.45 Plakvoet-Rond-17mm Plakvoetje rond 17 mm 12 0.20   Verzending en afhandelng 1 4.00   Dremel borenset 7-delig 1 7.39   Dremel boorkop 1 13.59
    Hardware €2,160.54 65.19%
    Case €554.47 16.73%
    Cables €218.06 6.58%
    Tools €226.35 6.83%
    Shipping €155.48 4.69%
    Total €3,314.91  

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