As part of our desire to be as environmentally friendly as we can we are always looking for ways to become even more efficient. Newer technology less power is one good way to continue to cut our power usage over time through upgrades.
I have been investigating using the newer Atom D510 chip with a super low power footprint for an entry level server or as a router. Both of which provide opportunities to reduce our power usage. The motherboard I picked for this purpose was Supermicro's X7SPA-HF which has 6x SATA ports making it fairly ideal for an inexpensive low-power backup machine along with using the new SSD technology for super fast boot and more reliable boot /os storage. One of its "benefits" is the heat sink instead of a moving fan on the cpu. Generally, fans next to hard drives are the first to go and if I can avoid this being one possible issue in the future then why not?
In the process of installing and running the latest Freebsd 8.0 stable (April 25, 2010) all was going well until I started to get hard freezing on the system with no logging. What was odd is the system ran fine for 6 days in another room so I was pretty sure the hardware was fine. I was finding the intermittent freezing was taking place every 1-3 hours and seemed to be more frequent when there was high cpu load or high net traffic. These were my clues which took a bit of time to sort out. Based on past experience with all hard freezing situations for most operating systems the source of the problem is usually traced back to bad hardware. So I started with this to determine the cause.
I replaced many parts of the new system including the ram, motherboard / cpu but kept the same chassis. The case had on big fan and a few small fans in it which seemed like more than what might be required and provided a good amount of air flow to keep the hard drives and cpu heatsink cool.
As I was unable to find the source of the problem by replacing the hardware, I started to switch the fan directions and make alterations in the air flow of the case by leaving the side of the case off. After these improvements were made the freezing has mostly stopped and it has not happened for 16+ hours now with some fairly extensive cpu testing.
I also noticed that turning off "Active Power Management" in the usb section of the bios seems to improve the situation.
If anyone else is implementing the X7SPA-HF in a server environment and runs into hard freezing then I recommend you start with the possibility of overheating and the settings in the bios.