Is Ryzen ready to power servers?
When we covered the X470 boards from ASRock Rack, we pondered whether they should really be considered server boards or not. Many of the quibbles that prompted that question still exist when covering the X570D4I-2T today, and there are even some new ones.
The X570D4I-2T has an extremely limited list of officially supported operating systems:
- Windows 10 x64
- Ubuntu 16.04.4 x64
- RedHat Enterprise Linux Server 7.3/7.4 x64
That is a pretty short set of options. Of course, this board will likely work on many operating systems not specifically listed, and we found many that worked without issues in our server OS compatibility section. However, for some prospective buyers, official support for an OS may be important and so it is worth pointing out. If you are your own support solution, then this may well be acceptable.
Of specific note is VMware, which has been uncooperative in the past about providing any support when their software is running on hardware that is not on their compatibility list. In addition to this motherboard not being on VMware’s HCL, no Ryzen CPUs appear on the VMware HCL. The AMD EPYC CPUs make an appearance on the HCL and are obviously based on largely the same core design as the Ryzen CPUs. Installing VMware is certainly possible, but if you encounter some kind of bug or edge case problem then you might very well be left on your own.
The mITX form factor has a fairly healthy server chassis ecosystem versus the mATX form factor of the X470 boards, which is a point in the plus column. Unfortunately, a good number of the mITX platforms may have difficulty providing adequate cooling to the X570 chipset, and some of the mITX cases will also impose additional restrictions on cooler compatibility, adding to the already complicated process of finding a heatsink that fits this board.
Once again we feel somewhat compelled to label the X570D4I-2T a “DIY server motherboard.” If you need OS support, the list is slim, and getting vendor support may be difficult. For a small DIY environment, or something like a web hosting environment the platform works and offers some great cost savings. If you need ISV support for your job this is unlikely the platform you want to buy. Further, since this is effectively the only Ryzen server platform on the market, it does not get the same level of firmware bugfix patch attention that the Xeon E-2200 series gets. Many of our readers know this, but we just want to be clear that there are significant differences for a large portion of the market using this platform.
Finally, with support for the Ryzen 9 3950X, one gets an enormous amount of compute in the mITX form factor. The corresponding trade-off is that one needs to use SODIMMs and that limits capacity. 128GB is accomplished using 4x 32GB DDR4 SODIMMs instead of lower-cost ECC RDIMMs found on most server platforms. Using more commodity 16GB DIMMs one is left to 4x 16GB for 64GB of memory or 4GB/ core and 2GB/ thread maximum. That memory constraint, along with the limited PCIe connectivity of the compact platform, means that if one is looking to build a large server, EPYC 7002 is a better option. We just published our ASRock Rack ROMED8-2T Review which is a great example of what a bigger platform can scale to. In this market, buyers know this, but we still wanted to call it out.
The ASRock Rack X570D4I-2T is certainly an interesting part. Personally, I like it quite a bit. With that said, it feels even more niche and specialized than the X470D4U line that preceded it. ASRock Rack perhaps realizes this, as they have recently announced the X570D4U and X570D4U-2L2T which are more direct successors to the X470D4U line. We hope to take a look at either (or both!) of their mATX X570 boards in the future.
For today’s buyers, the X570D4I-2T is a very specialized product; you either want to put a Ryzen-based server into a mITX platform or you do not. If you do not need the mITX form factor, then the forthcoming X570D4U, or even the older X470D4U (assuming PCIe 4.0 and Zen 3 are not needed) is likely the less esoteric choice. However, if a Ryzen mITX server is your goal, the X570D4I-2T is a well-engineered, tactical solution to that exact problem. The fact is that this provides an enormous performance per dollar and density solution for the mITX market that did not exist before.
ASRock Rack seems to be building a bit of a niche for themselves designing server platforms that are unusual or seem almost impossible at first glance. Another great example is their mATX EPYC platform or even the ASRock Rack EPC621D4I-2M we reviewed. The X570D4I-2T fits into that descriptor as well, and while it is perhaps too specialized of a part to give a general recommendation, it is certainly a technical feat of engineering and is likely to make a certain subset of buyers extremely happy if they are looking for an mITX platform with lots of compute.