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ASRock Rack EPC621D4I-2M - review Mini-ITX motherboard for Xeon LGA3647

When the Intel Xeon LGA-3647 series processors only appeared, many experts joked that this processor socket is so large that the mini-iTX format Board on it can not be done. And behold ASRock Rack showed the world that anything is possible, and if you need Scalable Xeon Board for nettop - please, the company has for your motherboard EPC621D4I-2M.

Let’s pause and ask ourselves: for what such purposes may be required platform Xeon Scalable in Mini-ITX format? Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the servers of small depth, designed to accommodate two in one unit of the Cabinet or in short wall cabinets. What’s different is for the most part exotic, and on the rare occasions where network gateways are installed in this way, usually no one even thinks about powerful Intel Scalable processors.

Mini_itx_server_2

But 10 years ago went fashion for universal Blade-servers, chassis which do not have a common backplane and are a case of Mini-ITX. Of course, such servers were very rare even then, in 2011-2012, but since they are much more convenient and cheaper than traditional Blade-servers, including because of its versatility - you can use the components of any manufacturer. At least, other ideas use Xeon Scalable format Mini-ITX I have no.

Well, let’s look at the motherboard EPC621D4I-2M, which offers the company ASRock Rack. Of course, a large processor socket LGA-3647 forced the manufacturer to save space on everything: instead of the usual DIMM-slots are installed SO-DIMM, and this memory with ECC support is very rare.

Data storage

Two M. 2 slots are placed on the reverse side of the motherboard, so you will have to remove the entire Board from the case to install the drives, which can be very inconvenient. Almost all server case blow the motherboard at the top and bottom, so that the temperature of the M. 2 drives can not worry, but the heatsinks on them will not deliver, so choose models SSD colder.

From the Intel C621 PCH chipset here you need very little: only 5 SATA ports, only 2 PCI Express 4x for SSD and only one PCI Express 3.0 16x.

Moreover, please note - for SATA drives installed port SFF-8639, and the red SATA port is designed for SATA-DOM flash drives.

Ports

On peripheral ports on a payment only a minimum: two Gigabit RJ45 network and two USB 3.0, well and traditional VGA which in the presence of smart BMC-monitoring on the ASpeed 2500 chip, hardly will be useful to someone. As a rule, on motherboards with these chips, you can fully configure the server, and it will work all its life, so never once and not connecting a flash drive or monitor to it: all control is carried out over the network. BMC management is derived on the first RJ45 port on the principle of Out of Band Access.

For network connections are responsible chips Marvell 88E1514-MNP2, low-level controller - Nuvoton NCT5573D. In General, the only thing worth paying attention to from the chips is the ASpeed 2500, a great solution that can be praised forever.

From additional internal connectors I want to note TPM connector, BMC, USB pair and one RS232. In General, the configuration of the ports confirms that this Board is mainly suitable for some cloud computing.

Power and cooling

The processor power circuit uses a 6-phase conversion on the Renesas ISL69127 controller. On the front side of the Board there is only space for keys and induction filters, and the containers represented by solid-state polymer capacitors are located on the reverse side of the motherboard.

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The power supply circuits of memory modules use one phase for two so-DIMM slots.

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For server cooling there are 3 PWM connectors with led indication of fan failure. If the speed of the latter slowed down or stopped at all - a red light will light up near the socket, and you can easily understand which connector to connect the new cooler.

Scheme-1

In General, the design of the Board itself is a miracle and some kind of breakdown of established stereotypes. To fit a massive South bridge and a huge processor socket in the Mini ITX format is a feat. Gigabit network ports and only 5 (including SATA DOM) SATA ports suggest that for the storage or network gateway, this card is still not the best option, but for some super-compact arrays such as “my corporate cloud” - Yes, this is it.

IPMI management

BMC are due to modern chip Aspeed AST2500 the most contemporary solution with a normal HTML5 interface, compatible including mobile devices. You do not need to install any client software on the operator’s computer, do not bother with compatibility with browsers - everything works under PC, and under MacOS, and under Linux and Android.

From the KVM interface you 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.

BIOS

The EPC621D4I-2M MOTHERBOARD has a standard AMI (Aptio) BIOS with a standard set of settings for server boards. I want to note that the motherboard has a function Watch Dog, which for some reason in the workstation-model do not put (has two options: NMI and Reset).

Basically, the BIOS has everything you need for a server motherboard, including boot logs and errors.

Testing

  • Processor: 2x Intel Xeon Gold 6146
  • Memory: 32 GB (2x16 GB) DDR PC2400
  • Vmware ESXi 6.7
  • Debian 9

Test_1_eng

Summary

We tested a very unusual motherboard, but it does not cause such a “wow-effect” as for example D2143D4I2-2T with integrated processor Xeon D-2143. In that miniature Board was integrated everything that can be useful in the next 4-5 years, and on the Board under LGA3647 all the useful space is reserved for the socket and the system chipset. If you need server motherboard Mini ITX format, in any case, I recommend to start with the same model D2143D4I2-2T with integrated processor - most likely it will satisfy your needs. Well, if not, and you will need to use something like a blade server on mini ITX boards under Xeon Scalable, then Yes, the heroine of today’s review, EPC621D4I-2M - a great purchase.

What I liked:

  • SATA DOM port
  • Two M. 2 slots that do not share performance with PCI Express port
  • Very good IPMI/BMC interface

What’s I don’t like:

  • Only 2 Ethernet ports
  • Memory module type - SO-DIMM

Analogues of this motherboard on sale is not found, so ordering it through a tender, you will get this product.