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ASrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T review : Mini-ITX motherboard with Xeon processor D-2143IT and 10GBase-T ports

According to Intel classification, Xeon D series processors are designed for use in network gateways and NAS-Ah entry-level Enterprise-segment. At its core, the Xeon D is a SoC with 4 to 16 cores, an integrated PCI South bridge, 32 PCI Express 3.0 channels, and four built-in 10-Gigabit network controllers. In February 2018, the Xeon D series was updated to the second generation with an index of 2100, in which the processors are divided into two categories: “IT”-version and “NT”-version. The latter is characterized by support for hardware security instructions QuickAssist Technology, which significantly increases the speed of encryption operations, including openssl libraries. Although, the built-in hardware engine AES-NI already provides more than acceptable encryption speed for such applications.

Nevertheless, the main asset of the Xeon D series is the compactness of the SoC-solution, so that even on the smallest motherboards of the Mini-ITX type, you can install 4 DDR4 slots, 8 SATA ports, M2 and PCI Express slots, and actually assemble a full-fledged server in half-depth cases with a heat package of 80-100 W per machine, that is very quiet, which can be installed in a room with staff. Today we will test just such a highly integrated Board from Asrock Rack, model D2143D4I2-2T.

When you are holding a regular, 9-color Megaminx, how often do you think about the fact that this little toy contains 10^68 possible combinations (for comparison, the number of atoms in the universe is approximately 10^80). We are used to the fact that small things can amaze with their capabilities, and Asrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T is such an option.

Distinctive feature

  • The Xeon-D 2143IT: 8 cores, 16 threads, 2.2-3.0 GHz, 11 MB cache
  • Passive cooling
  • 2 network ports 10GBase-T (Intel X557-T2)
  • 2 ports M2 PCI Express
  • 4 slots DDR4 ECC 2133 MHz (up to 512 GB in 4-channel mode)
  • 4 oculink ports:
    • 2 fan-out ports 1 Oculink x 4 SATA 600
    • 2 ports - PCI express for SSD connection (share lines with M2 ports)
  • 1 x PCI Express 16x slot
  • ASpeed 2500 Processor:
    • New generation of iPMI with HTML5 interface
    • Connect Virtual Media from CIFS/NFS network resources
    • KVM via HTML5, with JAVA or without it
    • New 4-pin power connector (ATX 24-pin adapter included)

Agree, it is impressive - before us really new generation of motherboards with new remote control and an opportunity to put 3 PCI Express devices. What’s missing? Yes, in General, for such a Board as a little network ports count. Although the pair X557-T2 and support speeds up to 10 GB / s, but for use as a router or security gateway would not hurt even a couple of conventional 1-Gigabit interfaces. And again, why only 2 10GBASE-T ports, because the processor has 4 controllers, and it would be possible to add 2 SFP+ ports for optics.

Mounting of the ASRock Rack D2143D4I2-2T motherboard is so compact that the elements are located on both sides of the PCB: on the reverse side, for example, there is a video memory chip of the Aspeed 2500 controller and CPU power elements. We tested a technical sample of the motherboard, so on the reverse side there is a diagnostic connector, which will not be on the serial modification. By the way, please note - in the VRM circuit uses only polymer tantalum capacitors Hi-c CAP, capable of operating up to 16 years at temperatures of 105 degrees Celsius, which due to its compactness, fit on the reverse side of the PCB.

But do not expect that ASRock Rack D2143D4I2-2T will work with passive cooling: of course, Xeon D consume less than other Xeon-s, but here in one chip there are computing cores, network controllers and a very hot South bridge (PCH), so in a compact body without a good airflow, the processor quickly heats up to 95 degrees Celsius and goes to trottling. That is, even if the manufacturer did not put a fan on the processor - this is not because the Xeon D is very cold, but because the use of a body with intense airflow is implied.

To supply power, an unusual solution is used: the Board has a 4-pin socket in which a complete adapter for ATX 24 Pin and an additional 12-Volt 8-pin EPS 12V socket is installed, but to start the motherboard it is enough to connect a 4-pin ATX-12V connector to it.

Oculink-PCI Express and Oculink-SATA adapters are supplied with the motherboard. Keep in mind that the connector for PCI Express SSD is very similar to the SAS drive connector, but you will not be able to connect the latter to the motherboard. A pair of Oculink PCI-E slots divide the PCI Express lines with a pair of M2 slots located near the PCI-E 16x expansion slot. Pay attention to these connectors - they are installed “ladder”, so that the lower you can install the expansion card, and the top to give under the SSD drive. Generally, M2 ports are an elegant way to bypass the mini-ITX format limitation on just one PCI-E expansion slot. Today in M2 you can connect an adapter to the M2 connector, a full-fledged SATA-600 controller, a USB controller or a network port.

Since the 10G network controller is already built into the Xeon D processor, it is sufficient to install a physical layer controller (PHY) responsible for encoding and decoding data streams passing through the copper cable to implement the network connection on the Board. Here, this function is performed by the Intel X557-AT2 chip, ready to boast a very small power consumption - only 6.8 W (3.4 W per port), which allows you not to think about the power consumption of the copper network infrastructure, even if the Park has hundreds of servers (the issue of power consumption of the network infrastructure is discussed in this article). It should be borne in mind that Intel X557-AT2 supports speeds of only 100, 1000 and 10 000 Mbit/s, and intermediate speeds of 2.5 and 5 Gbit/s, allowing the use of cable category 5, it is not available. On the network controllers built in Xeon D, Intel especially does not extend: in particular, it is not clear whether there is an unloading of NFS and iSCSI packages? Although, if the controller is built into the processor, then what should it unload? But virtualization is supported by SR-IOV and PCI-E Passthrough for a network card, so that you can traverse in a virtual machine as a whole the network controller and split it between virtualname.

A separate 1-Gigabit port is dedicated to the BMC functionality provided by the Aspeed A ST 2500 chip, and here is a real feast for system administrators. Let’s start with the fact that this ARM11 chip with a frequency of 800 MHz has hardware support for iKVM, up to 1 GB of DDR4 memory with ECC and a resolution of up to 1920x1080@60Hz 32bpp. That is, remote control is theoretically not limited to the unfortunate window 640x480. Built-in USB 2.0 controller allows you to emulate up to 5 devices simultaneously when 1 Gigabit connected. All these are just empty words until you connect to the server via a dedicated port for management and do not see what you have been waiting for so long: a modern Web-interface, and it… it is also optimized for mobile phones!

BMC interface

The interface is a song! The first thing you want to check is the work of iKVM without third-party applications, on pure HTML5, and here it is: it works under MacOS (Safari), and under Windows. If one operator is connected to the console, then when you connect the second - the first is given 15 seconds to return control, and then there is an interception. Forgot to log out from one computer and went to the second? You will get console access.

KVM interface can connect virtual media from the local computer, but this is the last century. It is much more convenient to mount the folder on the NAS with the installers of operations and choose which image and how to connect. The machine scans the CIFS/NFS folder in search .ISO-shek and offers you a connection not only in the form of a floppy disk or CD-ROM, but also in the form of HDD, so you can be downloaded over the network. However, the installation showed that Virtual Media works at a speed of about 1.5 MB/s, which is frustrating: the breakthrough did not happen, but in vain, because it is not just a method of installing the OS remotely, but also a practical replacement of PXE boot.

Of course, the Java-application is also left, but now it is only necessary to run the on-screen keyboard, if for example you find it difficult to press F11-F12 under MacOS.

A separate item is dedicated power management, separately - sensors and logs. It is a pity that there are no graphs in the interface, I really liked to monitor the temperature change, but this is partially offset by a very clear interface for viewing logs. By the way, for some reason, ASRock Rack 2143IT-2T does not show the temperature of the network card, although the temperature sensor is built into PHY X557-AT2.

Active Directory, LDAP/E-directory, and RADIUS services are supported for user authentication. We praised these features in IP-KVM Aten KN2124V A, and now we meet all the same in the BMC of the motherboard.

BIOS

Among the interesting features of the AMI BIOS should be noted unconnectable timer Watch Dog, which has 2 modes of server restart: Reset and NMI, the choice of mode for each Oculink SATA port, as well as the ability to configure the thermal package of the processor. You can specify a time delay before switching on the trotting to improve system performance if you are confident in your cooling system, and can Vice versa - reduce the TDP of the processor to meet a certain budget of energy consumption. When testing, we tried to set the maximum power - 22 W, and even with this value, the computer was able to boot.

Another interesting setting related to power consumption concerns the transfer of the processor in different modes “C State”: you can choose whether the CPU will reduce power consumption at the command of the operating system, or will use only the hardware out-of-band adjustment mechanism. According to our tests, there was no difference in performance and power consumption in both cases.

Interestingly, there are no settings for the memory subsystem, but maybe it’s for the best, because judging by our article, they do not affect performance.

Testing

Test bench configuration:

  • 16 GB of RAM (1 dice)
  • Vmware ESXi 6.7
  • Windows 7
  • Debian 9
  • ASrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T
  • Test system for comparison:
    • Processor - Intel Xeon E5-2603 v4
    • Cooler Noctua NH-D9DX i4 3U
    • ASRock Rack EPC612D4U-2T8R MOTHERBOARD
    • 16 GB of RAM (1 dice)

We will start our testing with the speed of Virtual CD-ROM when mounting an ESXi image both from the Virtual KVM window locally from the computer and over the network, from the NAS.

Virtual Media Speed

The speed of the virtual image did not like, because even Asrock Rack EPC612D4U-2T8R in our tests showed 3.7 MB/s, and here 1.5 megabytes per second.

test3

However, at times the speed jumps up to 4 MB/s, but it is more like the cache. So for BMC needs, monitoring a normal 100-megabit switch will be more than enough, and there is still no need for a Gigabit port. Let’s move on to CPU testing and see what CINEBENCH R15 desktop benchmark will show.

Cinebench R15

Well, of course, 16 threads make themselves felt, and by the way, if we talk about the difference between “bare metal” and work in a virtual machine, then under normal Windows without virtualization Xeon D-2143 showed 1180 points, and Xeon E5-2603 v4 - 480 points, that is, the speed drop from virtualization in the old, this server processor is more significant. It is interesting that in the process of testing it was possible to look at the work of Turbo Boost.

test1 !

In our case, the frequency of Xeon D-2143 rose to 2.8-2.9 GHz, but very quickly returned to 2.2 GHz. As I tried, but to see a maximum of 3 GHz failed neither when two cores, nor when one of the core (the General table of maximum frequencies Turbo Boost is shown on the last slide at the beginning of the article).

Aida64

To use the Asrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T motherboard as a file server, it makes sense to pay attention to the speed of AES encryption.

test2|638x447 test4

As for Zlib, the compression tests used by Aida do not correlate with the algorithms used in Btrfs/Zfs.

OLTP

With the full superiority of Xeon D in synthetic tests, OLTP shows that even the younger Xeon E5, which has 2.5 times less threads and almost 1.5 times less frequency, runs faster.

test2

As for power consumption, the typical values for the motherboard are 60-65 W in idle mode and up to 85 W in load mode.

Price issue

At the time of testing, the motherboard Asrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T was not available for sale and the price of the new product was not yet known.

Analogues

ASRock Rack D2143D4I2-2T has no analogues among SuperMicro, Asus or Tyan products. When ordering through a tender, you should pay attention to 4 oculink Ports and 2 slots M2 PCI Express - this is currently no one.

Summary

Asrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T is a Board that embodies the spirit of modernity. First, the very idea of an integrated processor in relation to such powerful models as Xeon D-2143 does not look like a solution “from poverty”, but as a balanced proposal from the vendor, sharpened for certain tasks. Usually, because of logistics, fee+CPU will be cheaper than separate fee and separate CPU. Second, 16 threads with a frequency of 2.2 - 3.0 GHz is a performance, which is enough for pfsense is also, for NAS task. In addition, two M2 slots allow you to install not only modern NVME drives, but also expansion cards, which in the Mini-ITX format can not be found. 8 SATA ports, 2 10g Base-T Ports and a processor with very fast hardware encryption are a godsend for storage systems.

What I liked

  • 8 SATA ports
  • Fast processor, a real alternative to Xeon E5 for storage/network equipment
  • 2 ports Oculink PCI-E
  • 2 m2 slots
  • Great BMC interface
  • The ability to configure the TDP of the processor in the BIOS
  • Full support from VMware vSphere 6.7
  • And all this in the form factor Mini-ITX

What I did’t like

  • Slow operation of Virtual Media
  • Only 2 USB ports
  • No connector for temperature sensor
  • There is no temperature monitoring of the network chip

From my point of view, Asrock Rack D2143D4I2-2T is the case when an old server with two processors 2U height is changed to 1 new server of half depth, with SSD storage and high speed network ports, which everything else works faster. When choosing a case for this motherboard, try to find a model in which the flow from the system fans goes directly to the processor.