Guest Eugene

The perfect motherboard for Testbed4

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Guest Eugene

Hey all,

We're currently in the process of searching for the best single motherboard to outfit our next-generation testbed. From a storage perspective, there are three desirable traits that the mobo should have:

1) The Intel ICH6R- Intel's ATA controllers have been somewhat of a standard. We'd like to have their latest (complete with NCQ support) if at all possible.

2) PCI-X- The current standard for enterprise-class add-on controllers. Important as we foray here and there into array testing.

3) PCI-E- will eventually supplant PCI-X in the enterprise, though we're not sure if it will necessarily occur during TB4's lifespan.

Currently the only chipset we've found that satisfies all three factors is the Intel 7221... it has the ICH6, PCI-X, and PCI-E. Implementations by Tyan and SuperMicro (both of which we can't actually find for sale, however) only include PCI-E 1x, however.

Anyone have any suggestions? Options become much more plentiful if one of the three factors is sacrificed... from a reader perspective, which of the three is least important?

Thanks for the feedback!

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I'd say PCI-X is the least important. Mainly because PCI-E seems to be much more favored as the standard to superceed PCI in PCs as well as workstations and servers. New products will more likely be aimed at PCI-E and less at PCI-X.

However, either PCI-X or PCI-E would be worthwhile to have with the loss of one most likely having a negligable affect on benchmark results..

It may be worth waiting a bit to see if any products emerge.

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That depends. True enterprise level stuff will be PCI-X for quite some time to come... PCI-E will filter up the food chain, not down...

I would be satisfied with test results from a PCI-X controller, because thats most likely, what I would recomend for clients or use myself.

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Guest Eugene
That depends. True enterprise level stuff will be PCI-X for quite some time to come... PCI-E will filter up the food chain, not down...

I agree, the enterprise sector tends to move much more slowly when adopting new architectures. Certainly today PCI-X is very relevant. The concern for PCI-E is that if TB4 goes as far as TB3 (three years now), the environment then will likely be well on its way to PCI-E standardization.

Blake, re waiting a bit, we've been doing that for the entire year ;). We're all set to overhaul the desktop drivemarks to more current applications but would like to change all the variables (ie, hardware also) once we roll the new traces out.

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Hey all,

We're currently in the process of searching for the best single motherboard to outfit our next-generation testbed. From a storage perspective, there are three desirable traits that the mobo should have:

1) The Intel ICH6R- Intel's ATA controllers have been somewhat of a standard. We'd like to have their latest (complete with NCQ support) if at all possible.

2) PCI-X- The current standard for enterprise-class add-on controllers. Important as we foray here and there into array testing.

3) PCI-E- will eventually supplant PCI-X in the enterprise, though we're not sure if it will necessarily occur during TB4's lifespan.

Currently the only chipset we've found that satisfies all three factors is the Intel 7221... it has the ICH6, PCI-X, and PCI-E. Implementations by Tyan and SuperMicro (both of which we can't actually find for sale, however) only include PCI-E 1x, however.

Anyone have any suggestions? Options become much more plentiful if one of the three factors is sacrificed... from a reader perspective, which of the three is least important?

Thanks for the feedback!

Supermicro does have a few out with PCI-X, ICH6R, and PCI-E 8X support, but nothing with 16X support.

But they are dual Xeon, DDR-II, and $$$$$$$$

SG

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Guest Eugene
Supermicro does have a few out with PCI-X, ICH6R, and PCI-E 8X support, but nothing with 16X support.

But they are dual Xeon, DDR-II, and $$$$$$$$

SG

If there are, I missed them. All the high-end boards had the ICH5-R. Can you be more specific with the model numbers?

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What's your budget? Will you actually use the machine for work or just a toy test box?

If you can afford it and want a decent mobo Newisys has some of the best mobos I've ever seen. They can manage themselves and perform very well. From what I've been told they can shut down portions of the mobo or of its componets (or CPUs) if say there's a heating problem.

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Looks like Eugene is looking for a motherboard to use for testing different storage devices, hard drives, for storagereview.com. Therefore he needs motherboard that will support all kinds of hard drives and also being future proof for upcoming hard drives with new technologies and storage addons cards.

Thanks

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Hey all,

We're currently in the process of searching for the best single motherboard to outfit our next-generation testbed. From a storage perspective, there are three desirable traits that the mobo should have:

1) The Intel ICH6R- Intel's ATA controllers have been somewhat of a standard. We'd like to have their latest (complete with NCQ support) if at all possible.

2) PCI-X- The current standard for enterprise-class add-on controllers. Important as we foray here and there into array testing.

3) PCI-E- will eventually supplant PCI-X in the enterprise, though we're not sure if it will necessarily occur during TB4's lifespan.

Currently the only chipset we've found that satisfies all three factors is the Intel 7221... it has the ICH6, PCI-X, and PCI-E. Implementations by Tyan and SuperMicro (both of which we can't actually find for sale, however) only include PCI-E 1x, however.

Anyone have any suggestions? Options become much more plentiful if one of the three factors is sacrificed... from a reader perspective, which of the three is least important?

Thanks for the feedback!

Supermicro does have a few out with PCI-X, ICH6R, and PCI-E 8X support, but nothing with 16X support.

But they are dual Xeon, DDR-II, and $$$$$$$$

SG

I don't think PCI-E x16 will be necessary. Right now, it's only used by graphics cards, and x8 is even more bandwidth than PCI-X 133.

Plenty for testbed4. (By the time we're ready for testbed5, maybe we'll be on to PCI-E x32, but I doubt it.)

Eugene, I'll see what I can dig up from friends at Intel. If Intel produces a motherboard that meets your specs, I MAY be able to convince them to donate one (possibly even with a processor.)

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Supermicro does have a few out with PCI-X, ICH6R, and PCI-E 8X support, but nothing with 16X support.

But they are dual Xeon, DDR-II, and $$$$$$$$

SG

If there are, I missed them. All the high-end boards had the ICH5-R. Can you be more specific with the model numbers?

Using "ich6" as the search term on Supermicro's site results in 3 hits. The following would seem to meet your criteria:

http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherb...25/X6DAL-G2.cfm

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Guest Eugene

Well, as I said, the 7221 chipset so far seems to be the only chipset that meets all three criteria, but we can't find it for sale... domestically.

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but we can't find it for sale... domestically.

Can I presume that the Intel board suits your requirements? I did some more searching...

TechOnWeb

1st Computer Source

Looks like plenty of places are listing it, even have pricing. Hopefully not too long before one of them has actual stock to sell.

Search for SE7221BK1 (leave off the -E) to get plenty of results. And avoid the SE7221BKLX as it's for 1U systems, and substitutes the PCI-E slot for an 'adaptive' slot, which takes a riser that can be either PCI-E, PCI-X or PCI. May not be practical as you won't be able to use PCI-E and PCI-X simultaneously.

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Good catch on the Intel board. I have friends in Intel's server division, (I used to work in that division,) so I'm asking if anyone can get one donated to SR.

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Good catch on the Intel board.  I have friends in Intel's server division, (I used to work in that division,) so I'm asking if anyone can get one donated to SR.

May be worth their while, if only to help SR propogate the myth that only Intel know how to make good IDE/SATA controllers ;)

While I'm going there, Eugene, would you consider an equivalent AMD platform board? Just wondering why you decided it had to be Intel?

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Guest Eugene
While I'm going there, Eugene, would you consider an equivalent AMD platform board?  Just wondering why you decided it had to be Intel?

The ICH-6R is currently regarded as the reference standard by all major hard disk players.

Re Intel themselves- over the summer, I requested a 925-based board for them for the purpose of testing the MaXLine's NCQ capabilities. After much pulling of teeth, they sent a board only. I was actually kind of expecting the board, DDR2, LGA775 CPU and 250 GB Maxline that Intel seemed to send out to some of the larger "motherboard/cpu/videocard/butnoharddrivesbecausethey'renotsexyexceptwhenibuyonethenimightaswellreviewitbutdon'tworryi'm notemotionallyattachedtothedriveiboughtandwillbeobjective" sites. Instead, they sent the board only. When I asked about a complete kit like those sent to the other sites... they told me to go to froogle.com :P

This more than anything else makes me WANT to use an AMD-based reference system... but yes, the ICH6 is considered to be a standard.

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I think the Intel 7221 is definately the best choice right now. If you really want to use the ICH6-R for standard SATA benchmarks there is obviously no other choice than an Intel based system. Early next year we should se the first nForce4 based Opteron boards with PCI-E and PCI-X. These would be also be well suited for storage benchmarking. You could use the integrated SATA controller or a Silicon Image SATALink Sil 3124-2 as your standard SATA adapter, a LSI 53C1030 for parallel SCSI benchmarking (or an Adaptec controller, but LSI Logic seems to have a largest market share nowadays) and a LSI SAS1068 or equivalent Adaptec controller for SAS benchmarking. You'll definatetly need a hybrid PCI-X / PCI-E board because Ultra320 SCSI and SAS adapters will be PCI-X only for some time.

Personally I have very positive experiences with the Tyan Thunder K8S / Opteron 240 combo in my testbed. I previously used a MSI K8D Master which had compatibility issues with some SATA RAID and SCSI RAID adapters. Because BIOS support was stopped in november 2003 these issues were never fixed. The Thunder K8S was perfect however and did have much better BIOS support. Tyan would be the best choice if you would go the Opteron route.

If you're also looking for a case I would suggest the Chenbro SR-103.

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Well, I talked with a friend in Intel's server division. He thinks he might be able to get you a board/proc/memory combo that includes the SE7221BK1. He needs to know a few things, though; such as if you already have a fixed contact at Intel (properly job-titled an FSE.)

If you want to email me, ed (at) hurtley (dot) org, I'll get you directly in touch with him to work out the details.

(I know he has access to P4 Extreme Editions, so you might even get a down-branded Xeon. :D )

Another friend who works in the division that actually sends out 'review' products to websites says you don't want those. They tend to be tweaked beta boards that are more likely to break down than real retail product. So the server contact is the best option.

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Guest Eugene
Using "ich6" as the search term on Supermicro's site results in 3 hits.  The following would seem to meet your criteria:

http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherb...25/X6DAL-G2.cfm

Whoops, completely overlooked this suggestion.

Looks like a nice board, but it seems like the descriptor page isn't even completed yet... gotta wonder how long it'll before one can purchase it.

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Guest Eugene

An update-

It looks like SuperMicro's implementation of the 7221 chipset is making its way into the channel now. Unlike Intel's version, however, it features dual PCIe 1x rather than a single PCIe 8x slot. I don't have a great grasp on how limiting this would be yet. 1x PCIe's limit is 250 MB/sec per direction- sounds great compared to PCI, but the physical fact that the slots are 1x and feature only 1x connectors means that they wouldn't be able to use, say, 4x or 8x storage adapters at all.

Intel's version would be more desirable, but it still not clear when we would be able to get our hands on one.

If we forgo the 7221 chipset, the next step would be a 7520/7525 board, most of which feature either a 4x or 8x PCIe slot as well as PCI-X. We would be giving up the ICH6 here, however... so we'd either use an add-in controller or deploy a second unit based on a 9xx chipset.

Decisions decisions...

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Guest Eugene

Ugh, almost thought I found a server from Dell that had the SE7221BK in it. Apparently the PowerEdge SC420 uses the Intel board yet somehow has been castrated down to all regular PCI slots instead of including the two PCI-X 100 MHz slots as specified in Intel's literature.

Was only $750ish too, including 1 GB of DDR2 and the 3.6 GHz EMT64 P4.

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