AMD Open 3.0 Server Hardware Now Available To Reduce TCO In A Data Center Near Your

Subject: Motherboards | May 15, 2013 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: server, open source hardware, open source, open compute project, open 3.0, amd

Throughout last year, AMD worked with the Open Compute Foundation to develop open source hardware for servers. The goal of the project was to bring lower-cost, efficient motherboards (compatible with AMD processors) to the server market. Even better, the AMD-compatible hardware is open source which gives companies and OEM/system integrators free reign to modify and build the hardware themselves. The latest iteration of the project is called Open 3.0 and motherboards based on the design(s) are available now from a number of AMD partners.

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An AMD Open 3.0 motherboard.

According to a recent AMD press release, Open 3.0 motherboards will be available from AVnet.inc, Hyve, Penguin Computing, and Zt Systems beginning this week. The new motherboards strip out unnecessary and "over-provisioned" hardware to cut down on upfront hardware costs and electrical usage. Open 3.0 uses a base open source motherboard design that can then be further customized to work with a variety of workloads and in various rack/server configurations. Servers based on OPen 3.0 will range from 1U to 3U in size and can slot into standard 19" racks or Open Rack environments. The boards with their dual Opteron 6300-series processors will reportedly be suitable for High Performance Computing (HPC), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Cloud applications, and storage servers. AMD claims that its Open 3.0 motherboards can reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of servers by up to 57% in data centers. AMD claims that a server based on Open 3.0 has a TCO of $4,589 while one based on a traditional OEM motherboard costs up to 57% more at $10,669. The AMD-provided example sound nice. Despite the example likely being the best-case-scenario, the idea behind the Open Compute Project and the AMD-specific Open 3.0 hardware does make sense. Customers should see more competition with motherboards that are cheaper to produce and run thanks to the open source nature. Further details on the status of Open 3.0 and the available hardware is being discussed at an invitation-only industry round-table this week between partners, interested enterprise customers, and a number of companies (including AMD, Broadcom, and Quanta).

For the uninitiated, the Open 3.0 hardware features a motherboard that measures 16" x 16.7" and is intended for 1U, 1.5U, 2U, and 3U servers. Each Open 3.0 board includes two AMD Opteron 6300 series processors, 24 DDR3 DIMM slots (12 per CPU, 4 channels with 3 DIMMs each), six SATA ports, 1 managed dual-channel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, up to four PCI-E slots, and a single Mezzanine connector for custom modules (eg. the Mellanox IO or Broadcom Management card). Board IO will include a single serial port and two USB ports.

I'm glad to see AMD's side of the Open Compute Project come to fruition with the company's Open 3.0 hardware. Anything to reduce power usage and hardware cost is welcome in the data center world, and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact the open source hardware will have, especially when it comes to custom designs from system integrators. Intel is also working towards open source server hardware along with Facebook and the Open Compute Project. It is refreshing to see open source gaining traction in this market segment, to say the least.

You can read more about the hardware availability announcement as well as an overview of the Open 3.0 specification (PDF) on the AMD website

Source: AMD

Hardware Flashback: Asus K7M

Subject: Motherboards | May 8, 2013 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: asus, K7M, Irongate, AMD-751, VIA 686a, retro, Slot A, K7, athlon

 

It might not be entirely obvious to viewers, but I love old hardware.  I came across a stash of old machines at my workplace that we were going to just throw away.  I was able to grab a couple of pretty interesting products from years past that I wanted to share and chat about.  The first of this series should be very familiar to most of you, especially those around when Ryan started his first website.

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It is fun to reminisce about old hardware.  The K7M is a classic.

The Asus K7M was one of the first Slot A motherboards out.  It was arguably the most fully featured of the group.  Its primary competition was the FIC SD-11 and the Gigabyte GA-7IXE.  If you remember that monster of a board (with one very strange layout) then you  most certainly have fond memories of what Asus was able to bring to the table.

The K7M was based on the AMD “Irongate” northbridge (AMD-751).  This was a pretty fully featured chip at the time.  It supported SDRAM up to 100 MHz and featured AGP 2X.  This chip was rumored to contain IP from VIA, but it had distinctly better performance than the competing AGP 2X chipsets from VIA at the time.  I distinctly remember having fewer AGP issues with these boards than products from VIA.  The K7M eschewed the AMD 756 southbridge and instead used the VIA 686A controller.  This was an updated (and fixed) southbridge from VIA that supported up to ATA-66 speeds and USB 1.1.

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Integrated audio was still uncommon back in the day.  If you thought mobo audio quality is bad now...

The K7M was a decent overclocker for the time, but little was known about the EV-6 bus and how it reacted to overclocking.  Bus speeds up to 107 MHz or so were common, but anything above that got pretty flaky fast.  Later BIOS revisions helped a bit, but the 751 was not going to be pushed much further.  It was not until official 133 MHz support came in did we see some legroom with overclocking.

The K7M was a very solid board for being an introductory product.  One thing that always amused me greatly was that Asus, Gigabyte, and other motherboard manufacturers would refuse to show Slot A boards on the floor of Comdex because they feared that Intel would come down upon them like a ton of bricks.  If a person wanted to see a Slot A board, they would have to go into a back room and view it from there, but only upon request.  It was not until the next year that some manufacturers cautiously showed off their AMD offerings.

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Name that mini-slot above the AGP!

I ran this particular board for a while.  I believe I ran the SD-11 longer.  I was doing reviews all the time, so I was swapping out motherboards pretty frequently.  The Asus had a luxury feel about it as compared to the FIC and Gigabyte offerings.  It even had integrated audio and a game port.  Few other products of the time included such a perk.  AMD was on a roll with the original K7 Athlon, and Asus was one of the first partners to really produce a world class motherboard for the architecture.

Source: Asus

ASRock Announces Its Z87 Motherboard Lineup

Subject: Motherboards | May 7, 2013 - 12:04 AM |
Tagged: Z87 OC Formula, z87, lga 1150, fatal1ty, asrock

The launch of Intel’s next-generation Haswell processors and Z87 chipset is getting closer, and the various motherboard vendors have started teasing their upcoming product lines. Taiwan-based motherboard manufacturer ASRock is the latest company to detail its initial Z87 lineup, and it is fairly extensive.

ASRock will be launching LGA 1150 boards under its Extreme, OC, and Fatal1ty series. The Z87 Extreme series is intended for enthusiasts that need the the most connectivity options possible, including having the highest number of PCI-E slots. The Z87 OC Formula motherboards have beefy VRM hardware and are built to be pushed to the limit by overclockers. Finally, the Fatal1ty-branded motherboards are aimed at PC gamers and support 3 way multi-GPU setups and Creative Sound Core 3D audio chips. Many of the ASRock boards and an alternative SKU with an included 802.11ac Wi-Fi card. These boards are identified by the “/ac” text in their product names.

AsRock Z87 Motherboard Lineup.jpg

The initial ASRock Z87 Extreme series launch will include the following boards:

  • Z87 Extreme 11
  • Z87 Extreme 9
    • Z87 Extreme 9 with 802.11ac WLAN
  • Z87 Extreme 6
    • Z87 Extreme 6 with 802.11ac WLAN
  • Z87 Extreme 4
  • Z87M Extreme 4 (Micro-ATX)

All of these boards will provide plenty of PCI-E slots and rear IO options that include eSATA, USB 3.0, at least one Gigabit LAN port (and dual on some boards), HDMI video outputs, and both digital and analog audio outputs. Note that the top three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots are rather close together on the Extreme 9 board. This lends credence to the Extreme series use as more of an enthusiast’s work rig with PCI-E SSD accelerator or hardware RAID cards rather than strictly a multi-GPU setup.

The OC series will include the following boards geared for Intel’s Haswell processors:

  • Z87 OC Formula
  • Z87M OC Formula
    • Z87M OC Formula with 802.11ac WLAN

The Z87 OC Formula series will launch with two boards, one that is full ATX and one that is Micro-ATX. These boards are similar in features and design to the Extreme 6 motherboard, but have additional hardware to facilitate overclocking.

Finally, the gamer-centric Fatal1ty series is aimed at high-end gaming PCs. The series will launch with the following boards:

  • Z87 Fatal1ty Professional
  • H87 Fatal1ty Performance

The Fatal1ty Professional uses Intel’s Z87 chipset and is aimed at high-end gaming PCs while the H78 Fatal1ty Performance uses the lower-cost H87 chipset and is aimed at midrange gaming systems. Multi-GPU and higher-end onboard sound are the main features of this ASRock series.

Pricing and availability are still unknown, but the company has quite the lineup planned, and the boards should cover a wide breadth of price points. It is nice to see the Micro ATX options as well as the standard ATX models. Now, we just need some Mini-ITX Z87 boards! Additional photos of the Z87 motherboards are available over at Tech Power Up.

Source: TechPowerUp

Gigabyte Teases Its New UEFI BIOS For Z87 Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 6, 2013 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, z87, uefi, bios

Over the weekend, Gigabyte posted a new photo to its Facebook page that teased the interface of the company’s upcoming UEFI BIOS. The new UEFI DualBIOS interface features an orange and black theme with a black background, orange accents, and white text. From the preview photos of Gigabyte’s Z87 motherboards, the BIOS colors will match up nicely with the actual black and orange colored hardware.

Gigabyte Z87 UEFI BIOS.jpg

The middle pane occupies the most space and brings all of your standard BIOS setup and overclocking settings front and center. Gigabyte has laid out the various settings into tabbed categories. Users can further customize a shortcut menu on the right-most tab. This settings pane is surrounded on all sides by various bars and columns with status information.

The top bar includes graphs on the system’s voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. The bottom bar displays system information such as the total amount of RAM installed, CPU and BIOS identification, and other information. On the left of the main settings panel is a column with readouts on the installed processor. The information it provides at a glance includes CPU voltage, frequency, temperature, and core ratio. It also lists the CPU fan speeds. Meanwhile, the column on the right-hand side of the display hosts temperature and fan speed information for the PCH, system/case sensor, and up to five case fans.

While some enthusiasts might balk at the orange, black, and white color scheme, in all it looks like a nice improvement. Most of the information is available at a glance, and the customizable shortcut menu is a useful feature.

You can find the original photo as well as several other preview photos on Gigabyte’s Facebook page.

What do you think about the new UEFI BIOS UI?

Source: Gigabyte

MSI's FM2-A85XA-G65, an inexpensive start to a great HTPC

Subject: Motherboards | April 26, 2013 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: msi, FM2-A85XA-G65, socket fm2, amd

Compared to most current Intel boards, MSI's FM2-A85XA-G65 is very clean looking, especially around the CPU socket.  This particular board benefits from LucidLogix's Virtu MVP in addition to hybrid Crossfire present on FM2 boards and will handle proper Crossfire as it does have a pair of PCIe 16x slots.  You could build an agile HTPC with this motherboard, with 8 channel sound available and D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort output all present.  The board is currently available for $110, a full review can be found over at X-bit Labs.

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"MSI mainboards look great, have very convenient layout and use only high-quality components. These boards are energy-efficient, fast and work well with default settings. However, there are quite a few things in their BIOS that could use some extra work and the boards do not keep the power-saving technologies up and running during overclocking. Everything we have just said is true for the main hero of our today’s review."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: X-bit Labs
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Z77N-WiFi is GIGABYTE's latest edition to the Mini-ITX lineup. Although the board is not as packed with features as some of the other enthusiast-minded mini-ITX boards, GIGABYTE did some interesting things with the board layout to space components out on the board more evenly. The Z77N-WiFi even comes standard with dual-Realtek GbE NICs and an Intel 802.11n-based WiFi mPCIe card. We put the board through our normal gamut of tests to see how well this mighty mite sized up with its full-sized brethren. The Z77N-WiFi board comes with an equally reasonable retail price at a mere $129.99.

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z77N-WiFi motherboard!

Gigabyte's basic black Z77X-UD4H

Subject: Motherboards | April 10, 2013 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z77X-UD4H, Intel Z77, lga1155

Like many Z77 boards, the Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H has a rather crowded socket area, if you are not going with a watercooling solution consider purchasing low profile DIMMs.  One thing it has that most other boards do not have is an auxiliary power plug next to the SATA ports which takes a SATA power plug, not a molex connector.  It also sports a significant number of slots, three PCIe 3.0 16x slots, three PCIe 1x slots and even a PCI slot.  [H]ard|OCP had an interesting time overclocking this board, you should familiarize yourself with their experiences if you plan on picking this board up and overclocking your CPU.

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"It’s been awhile since we’ve looked at a motherboard from Gigabyte. We haven’t forgotten Gigabyte and decided to take the Z77X-UD4H for a little test drive. The Z77X-UD4H is a sub-$170 motherboard with a great look and a solid feature list for the price point that has the computer hardware enthusiast in mind."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

board.jpg

Courtesy of ASUS

The P8Z77X-I Deluxe is ASUS' high-powered answer to the small form factor crowd. Through some unique design decisions and an upright daughter-board, ASUS was able to cram a full 10-phase digital power delivery system into this board without sacrificing any other integrated components. It's nice to see a manufacturer step up and design a mini-ITX board in the same vein as its full-sized counterpart. We put the board through our normal gamut of tests to see how well this mighty Mini-ITX board sized up with its full-sized brethren. At a retail list price of $219, the P8Z77-I Deluxe needs to prove its worth against the full sized boards.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed a full 10 phases of digital power, housed in the board's upright daughter card sitting parallel to the CPU cooler. The P8Z77-I Deluxe with its high-end power plant is packed full of features, including SATA 2, SATA 3, e-SATA, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0 ports for storage devices. Networking capabilities include an Intel GigE NIC, a Broadcom dual-port 802.11n adapter, and a Broadcom Bluetooth adapter. The board also features a single PCI-Express x16 slot for graphics cards and other expansion cards.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Continue reading our review of the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard!

ASUS Officially Launches P9X79-E Workstation Motherboard With 4-Way SLI Support

Subject: Motherboards | April 2, 2013 - 11:27 PM |
Tagged: asus, p9x79-e, workstation, Sandy Bridge E, quad sli, quad crossfire, lga 2011

Earlier this year at CES, ASUS showed off a high-end workstation board called the P9X79-E WS. The board is meant for Sandy Bridge-E processors, but will likely be compatible with Ivy Bridge-E as well. Unlike Wolverine and Zeus, the P9X79-E WS is a motherboard that will actually see the light of day and has been officially launched. It will be available sometime in May at an as-yet-unannounced price.

ASUS P9X79-E WS.jpg

The P9X79-E hosts a single LGA 2011 processor, up to 64GB of 2400MHz DDR3, the Intel X79 PCH, and support for 4-Way SLI or CrossFire on four of its seven total PCI-E 3.0 slots. The workstation board uses a 10-layer PCB, ASUS DIGI+ with 10+2 power phases, DR Power PSU monitoring, ASUS SSD Caching II, solid capacitors, and fanless heatsinks connected via copper heatpipes.

Asus P9X79-E WS_Rear IO.jpg

Storage options include six SATA 6Gbps ports, four SATA II 3Gbps ports, and two eSATA ports coming from the front panel header. The rear IO has changed a bit since the board seen at CES, however. The now-official ASUS P9X79-E WS includes the following rear IO options:

  • 1 x PS/2 combo port
  • 10 x USB 2.0 ports (one can be used for BIOS flashing)
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 2 x eSATA ports
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports backed by Intel i210 GbE controller
  • 6 x Analog audio ports
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF port

The board can accommodate up to four dual slot graphics cards or seven single slot expansion cards (like PCI-E SSDs and RAID controllers). As a workstation board, it is likely to be pricey, but for those that need 4-way SLI and LGA 2011 (possibly for Ivy Bridge-E though its hard to say for sure if that will work yet) it is shaping up to be a good option. As mentioned above, the P9X79-E WS will reportedly be available for purchase in about a month. Sometime in early May or late April, according to Slash Gear.

Source: Asus
Manufacturer: Oyen Digital

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Oyen Digital

Oyen Digital, a popular manufacturer of portable storage enclosures and devices, provided us with its MiniPro™ eSATA / USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive enclosure for testing USB 3.0 enhanced mode on the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard. This enclosure offers support for USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and eSATA ports in conjunction with a 2.5" hard drive. We put this enclosure on the test bench with the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe board to test the performance limits of the device. The MiniPro™ enclosure can be found at your favorite e-tailer for $39.95.

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Oyen Digital

The MiniPro™ SATA / USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive enclosure is a simple aluminum enclosure supporting any 2.5" form factor hard drive up to SATA III speeds. The enclosure itself supports USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and eSATA connections. Because of its use of the ASMedia 1053e chipset for USB 3.0 support, the enclosure supports both USB 3.0 normal mode transfer speeds and UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol) mode transfer speeds. UASP mode is a method of bulk transfer for USB 3.0 connections that increases transfer speeds through the use of parallel simultaneous packet transfers. Per our sources at ASUS, UASP can be explained as follows:

The adoption of the SCSI Protocol in USB 3.0 provides its users with the advantage of having better data throughput than traditional BOT (Bulk-Only Transfer) protocol, all thanks to its streaming architecture as well as the improved queuing (NCQ support) and task management, which eliminated much of the round trip time between USB commands, so more commands can be sent simultaneously. Moreover, thanks to the multi-tasking aware architecture, the performance is further enhanced when multiple transfers occur.
The downside of UASP is that the receiving device (Flash drive/external hard drive etc) must also be UASP enabled for the protocol to work. This requires checking your peripherals before purchase. However since UASP is an industry standard, the device support for ASUS UASP implementation is not restricted to a particular controller manufacturer or device type, so the overall number of peripherals available should undoubtedly grow.

Technical Specifications (taken from the Oyen Digital website)

Ports

eSATA 6G (Up to 6.0 Gbps)
USB 3.0: (Up to 5.0 Gbps)

Interface

SATA III (up to 15mm SATA 2.5" HDD/SSD)

Chipset

USB 3.0
ASMedia 1053e

eSATA
ASMedia 1456pe

Weight

10 oz.

Certifications

CE, FCC

Requirements

Windows XP/Vista/7/8 & above; MAC OS 10.2 & above; Linux 2.4.22 & above

Continue reading our review of the Oyen Digital MiniPro™ enclosure!