'Arm'ing my new HL15

I received shipment of the chassis + PSU this morning. No space on my workbench right now since I’m finishing up another project, but I am planning on dropping in an Ampere Altra Max-based motherboard, and seeing how energy-efficient I can build out my HL15 :slight_smile:

I plan on documenting the process on this forum so anyone else interested in the process can learn from it! (And yes I plan on doing a video for it too).

First things first: the ADLINK dev kit board is EATX (12" x 13"), therefore it will not fit inside the HL15 chassis. (See Motherboard Options - #13 by Hutch-45Drives).

I’m trying to get my hands on an ASRock Rack ALTRAD8UD-1L2T, which is ‘Deep Micro ATX’, but more importantly includes built-in SlimSAS headers. I would likely need some SFF-8654 8i to SFF-8643 cables (I think that’s the right one) to connect to the wires hanging off the chassis backplane. I’d need 2, as those cables break out into 2x 4-lane Mini HD SAS connectors.

The motherboard has 2x 10 GbE connections which would be plenty for me, and I’d have 4 empty x16 PCIe x16 slots to play with, too!


Looking forward to following your progress on the forum and checking out the video once it’s ready. Best of luck with the build, and please consider sharing more updates as you move forward!

Woot. Very much looking forward to this video!

I’m interested in the energy efficiency aspect of your build. Good luck and I look forward to the video!

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Just an update: almost beginning a move into the new office. Hoping to do some work on HL15 prior to the move but we’ll see…

I just got word from ASRock Rack, motherboard should come sooner or later now. But now I’m thinking, what kind of cooler can I use? Would love something quiet (ish). Ideally a heat sink with fans, probably 120W TDP.


I’m using this thing https://noctua.at/en/nh-d12l


And to follow-up, it’s been a while but I’m finally putting this thing in service (video coming this week!).

Noctua’s actually released two new coolers specific to the Ampere Altra/Altra Max socket:

And a quick preview, for anyone following along on the forum…

And a closeup of the new CPU cooler:


I also wanted to note the SlimSAS connectors seem to be PCIe-only—AFAICT, they don’t support SATA/SAS, so I went with a Broadcom HBA that seems to chomp through 10-15W of power…

Yeah my Broadcom 9305-16i eat a bit of power too and gets > 100C without any air blowing directly at it (idle) so I screwed a small fan onto the heatsink. It sits at about 60C now idle.

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FYI the video is live today! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz5k5WgTkcc

And a blog post, for the textually-inclined: Building an efficient server-grade Arm NAS | Jeff Geerling


Woot. Great video, I’ve been waiting for this one to come out!

Great video! But I suppose that in conclusion, the Arm powered HL15 doesn’t seem to be a whole lot more power efficient than the stock fully built version from 45drives?

Efficiency is hard to universally quantify—in terms of putting bits out at 10 Gbps, their build may be better at targeting that for simple NAS use cases (versus also running a bunch of virtualization workloads, or other processing).

I plan on exploring that a bit more in my next video testing more on power and performance.


Does that mobo support vdc fan control? Because I assume those fans running at 100% constantly is a huge part of your power draw. I’d find a way to hook those fans into your system via pwm or vdc.

It seems like getting Houston to run natively on arm64 is a little bit burdensome, as only amd64 is currently ‘officially’ supported, and I ran into a number of little issues where I had to compile something here or there… enough papercuts I decided to forego a fancy UI for now and just set up things the old school way with Ansible.

See: Houston / Cockpit setup on arm64?

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Fan-swapped the whole thing, everything but the PSU fan is now Noctua, and it is blissfully silent.

Working out some issues with the ASRock Rack motherboard fan controls, but the CPU is still cool enough, and the fans are all working. Since there are no SATA connectors available from the PSU, I decided to put three fans through a Noctua fan controller into one motherboard fan plug, and three fans through a three-way adapter in another motherboard fan plug.

Fingers crossed that keeps working. But the system went from 60 dBa to 34 dBa (measured 1’ in front). It went from annoyingly-loud to almost silent.

Now the loudest part of the system (besides the HDDs, once they spin up) is the PSU fan!