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The Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon side

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The Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon front

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The Blue Dragon

  • AMD FX-8150 Zambezi 3.6GHz eight-core
  • GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 motherboard
  • AMD 990FX north bridge
  • AMD SB950 south bridge
  • 16GB DDR3 1866 CORSAIR Vengeance RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 640, 950 MHz core, 2 GB video RAM
  • Thermaltake Armor Series VA8003SWA Full Tower Case
  • HighPoint 2320 8-channel PCI-e x4 RAID controller
  • 750 watt CORSAIR power supply
  • 120 GB OCZ Vertex 2 solid-state (boot)
  • 2x Seagate 3TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s (RAID-1)
  • 2x3 TB Western Digital Caviar SATA 3.0 Gb/s
  • 2 TB Seagate Barracuda 5900 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
  • 2 TB Seagate Barracuda 5900 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 CPU heatsink and fan
  • LG WH14NS40 BD/DVD/CD drive
  • 1x 250mm cooling fan
  • 4x 120mm cooling fans
  • 2x 90mm cooling fans
  • 2x 4" Blue Cold Cathode lights
  • Asus VH232H 23" HD LCD monitor
  • Acer P241W 24" HD LCD monitor
  • Acer P241W 24" HD LCD monitor
  • Razer Naga 17-button, 5600 DPI mouse
  • Logitech Z-5500 5.1 surround sound speakers
  • APC Back-UPS 1260VA uninterruptible power supply
The Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon inside

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Upgrade History

5/21/2016

Added two 500 GB hard drives.

9/29/2014

RAID array modified.

6/20/2013

Video card changed to NVIDIA GeForce GT 640. Four monitors now running.

3/1/2013

Added 24" HD Acer LCD.

9/18/2012

Blu-ray/DVD/CD burner installed.

9/11/2012

Motherboard and CPU update. (details)

5/2/2012

Upgraded mouse to 17-button, 5600 DPI Razer.

5/11/2011

Replaced old 21" CRT with 1080p Asus LCD.

2/28/2011

Upgrades include a 750 power supply to replace a 600 watt Thermaltake Purepower. Added 4 GB of RAM, and an additional 2 TB of storage.

8/12/2008

System ready

7/28/2008

3.0 TB RAID-5 array ordered

7/20/2008

Blue Dragon takes over for Red Dragon

7/11/2008

Base system assembly begins

6/27/2008

Parts begin to be ordered

6/1/2008

Blue Dragon is commissioned

Background

The Blue Dragon was commissioned in June of 2008 as a replacement console for the aging Red Dragon. Since the Red Dragon stood as a signature computer in the Dragon Array, the Blue Dragon had no small task to fill. Despite being Red Dragon being four and a half years old, the system could still hold it's own. Unforchently, mounting problems and aging hardware meant the system wouldn't be able to be the primary console forever.

The Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon inside

(Click for larger image)

The design of the Blue Dragon addressed several of the Red Dragon's short commings. First and foremost, the problem of heat. When the Red Dragon was designed, there were around 10 case fans. Many had failed over the long years of use and cooling had become quite an issue. For the Blue Dragon, the design had a reduced fan count. To lower noise, larger fans were preferred.

An other issue with the Red Dragon was the drive bay count. The system housed 8 3.5" hard drives and two 5.25"—and that was all the case was designed to hold. Since the solution to storage here has been simply to add more drives, the case for the Blue Dragon had to accommodate this.

The core of the machine needed to be something that would keep processing power at or above the curve for quite a while. The Red Dragon was a dual processor system at a time when nothing but servers were running this configuration. It was before multi-core CPUs were around and held it's own as they entered the market.

As a long-time fan of AMD processors, I knew I was going to chose some flavor of of their processors. I settled on the Phenom 9850—a quad-core clocked at 2.5 GHz. Initially I wasn't sure if I was going with that or the 2.3 GHz version, but there really wasn't any reason to settle for less. This CPU also consumed 125 watts and was still in my budget.

The motherboard I had a good deal of debate over, but decided on the Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DS5 after reading several reviews. The Linux guys all said good things about it and the chipset was good. It gave me 6 internal SATA drives and two PCI-E x16 slots along with appearing to be well designed to despite heat.

The Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon inside

(Click for larger image)

RAM was a bit important and I wanted something designed to get rid of heat. I was impressed with Pluvius's OCZ Reaper RAM and went with that myself. I loaded the system for 4 GB—4x what the Red-Dragon currently has.

To house this system, I wanted a case that could move a lot of air and had room for the RAID array that will likely exist in it one day. I picked a silver Thermaltake Armor Series full tower case which employed a 250mm side fan, 2x120mm intake/exhaust fans and two more 90mm fans. It can also house 8x 3.5" drives and 10x 5.25" drives. When I do design the RAID array, I have the option of picking up some hot-swap 5.25" bays to hose it.

For the power supply, I stuck was a recommendation by Pluvius for a 600 watt Thermaltake Purepower. It had all the connectors I wanted, able to be plugged in by groups and a 120mm cooling fan on the bottom. While I could have gone larger, I don't think I needed to. I'm not overclocking or running multiple video cards. The Red-Dragon runs off a 300 watt supply and probably draws more wattage then the Blue-Dragon (not sure because of the video card).

On July 28th, 500 GB drive prices bottomed out at $58/drive. This meant I could build a 3,000 GB RAID-5 array with the remaining budget I had allotted for the Blue Dragon.

I had one 500 GB drive from the Red Dragon and decided to order 6 more 500 GB drives for the array. This would give the Blue Dragon 3.0 TB of RAID-5 storage. I selected a HighPoint 2320 controller as I've been happy with the two other HighPoint controllers I've had in the past— including the PCI-X controller that has run the Red Dragon's 6x250 GB RAID-5 array from four years.

The Blue Dragon's case has 11x 5.25" drive bays in front. One is taken for the power switch and one at the very bottom has a pull out drawer. There is an adapter that converts three of the bays to 3.5" and it includes a 120mm blue LED cooling fan. I saw that Thermaltake sells these bays and ordered two more. I pulled out the drawer and an 5.25" to 3.5" adapter and am now have 9x 3.5" fan cooled bays. This still leaves room for the CD/DVD-RW drive and 3 additional 3.5" bays at the back of the case.

I installed all the drives in the converted 5.25" bays at the front of the case. They are all cooled by 120mm fans. The 7x 500 RAID drives go to the HighPoint controller and the two remaining drives (a 500 GB program drive and a 750 GB overflow) run from the motherboard.

For the moving process, I picked up my 1 TB external hard drive from the safe deposit box. This would provide intermediate storage for the transition. The 500 GB overflow drive from the Red Dragon was nearly full, so it's data was held by the backup drive while the RAID array was being set up. The Red Dragon held everything else, since it still contained the original 1 TB RAID-5 array. The external drive has both USB 2.0 and eSATA ports. The Blue Dragon has 2 eSATA ports, which made things easy and much faster. USB 2.0 has 480 mbit/s transfer speeds and eSATA 2,400 mbit/sec—5x as fast.

In late 2010, the Blue Dragon began to do a lot of rendering work. Coupled with virtualization, and the increased image sizes from a new digital camera, 4 GB of RAM was no longer adequate. Also, the 3 TB RAID-5 array was at around 95% capacity. We had also tried running a 2nd video card, but it was creating problems that I thought was related to power.

To address these issues, the Blue Dragon received some updates. An additional 4 GB of RAM would double what had been in the system. The addition of a 2 TB hard drive would offer relief to the nearly full RAID array. And a 750 watt power supply with a single 12 volt rail was believed to solve the additional video card issue (turned out not to be the case).

In September of 2012 it was time to update the core power of the Blue Dragon in it's first major overhaul. An eight-core 3.6 GHz CPU replaced the four-core 2.5 GHz. With this came a new motherboard and 16 GB of DDR3 RAM. The boot drive was changed to a 120 GB solid-state drive. During the build it was found that 3 of the older 500 and 750 GB hard drives would no longer work in this system, and they were removed. It was also recommended the video card be changed to a Radeon HD 6770 card which should have been able to run 4 monitors. It did not. The CD/DVD drive was an old PATA drive and was also replaced with a Blu-Ray/DVD/CD drive.

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