Gigabyte H261-Z61 Server Review 2U4N AMD EPYC with NVMe

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Gigabyte H261-Z61 Management Overview

Looking at the Gigabyte H261-Z61 management, we see a departure from the Avocent-based management firmware solution. Instead, Gigabyte is using the HTML5 MegaRAC with a more modern UI. Our Gigabyte H261-Z61 came with the Central Management Controller (CMC) which we are going to discuss in a bit. First, we are going to look at the individual node management.

Gigabyte H261-Z61 Node Management

As one can see, the Gigabyte H261-Z61 utilizes a newer MegaRAC SP-X interface. This interface is a more modern HTML5 UI that performs more like today’s web pages and less like pages from a decade ago. We like this change. Here is the dashboard. One item we will quickly note is that you can see the CMC IP address in the upper left corner that is helpful for navigating through the chassis.

Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 Dashboard
Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 Dashboard

You will find standard BMC IPMI management features here, such as the ability to monitor sensors. Here is an example from one of the machines.

Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 Sensors
Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 Sensors

Other tasks such as the CPU inventory are available. One can see this particular CPU is a new AMD EPYC 7371 high-frequency Naples part that will be available next quarter. We already tested the Gigabyte H261-Z61 with these CPUs.

Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 System Inventory CPU Inventory
Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 System Inventory CPU Inventory

One of the other features is the new HTML5 iKVM for remote management. We think this is a great solution. Some other vendors have implemented iKVM HTML5 clients but did not implement virtual media support in them at the outset. Gigabyte has this functionality and power control support all from a single browser console.

Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 Remote Control IKVM
Gigabyte MZ61 HD0 Remote Control IKVM

We want to emphasize that this is a key differentiation point for Gigabyte. Many large system vendors such as Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo charge for iKVM functionality. The feature is an essential tool for remote system administration these days. Gigabyte’s inclusion of the functionality as a standard feature is great for customers who have one less license to worry about.

While each node’s BMC has features for LDAP, AD, RADIUS authentication integration, logging, remote firmware update tools, and similar industry standard functions, what sets the H261-Z61 apart is the CMC which reduces cabling needs in the data center.

Gigabyte H261-Z61 CMC A Big Feature

One of the newer features with this generation is the Gigabyte H261-Z61 CMC. CMC stands for Central Management Controller. This serves two purposes. First, it allows some chassis level features. Second, it allows a single RJ-45 cable to access all four IPMI management ports on the individual chassis which greatly reduces cabling. With 2U 4-node chassis, cabling becomes a big deal. Removing cabling means better cooling efficiency and less spent on cabling, installation, and switch ports. The CMC is an option we wish Gigabyte makes standard on 2U4N designs going forward.

Gigabyte H261 Z60 CMC Port And PSUs
Gigabyte H261 Z61 CMC Port And PSUs

The CMC is run by an ASPEED BMC. This still uses the more traditional Gigabyte management interface, but it has some great features. Here is an example we set up in the lab with a dual CPU node, a single CPU node, a powered off node, and a node removed. An administrator can see this information remotely through one interface per chassis.

Gigabyte H261 Z60 CMC Four Node Modes
Gigabyte H261 Z61 CMC Four-Node Modes

The “Node MAC Address” shows information on each node that is physically plugged in. Using the four test cases shown above, we can see that if the node is powered on, we can get the LAN MAC addresses as well as the BMC address/ IPv4/ IPv6 addresses. In a cluster of 2U4N machines, this is important when you need to troubleshoot and find a node.

Gigabyte H261 Z60 CMC Node MAC Address
Gigabyte H261 Z61CMC Node MAC Address

There are some aggregated sensor data points shared with the CMC for remote monitoring.

Gigabyte H261 Z60 CMC Sensors
Gigabyte H261 Z61 CMC Sensors

You will have to use separate firmware updates for the CMC versus the nodes, that also means there is another BMC to secure and keep updated and the functionality is a bit different between the nodes and the CMC.

Gigabyte H261 Z60 Two Management Interfaces For Firmware Updates
Gigabyte H261 Z61 Two Management Interfaces For Firmware Updates

We like the chassis power figures, the ability to turn the entire chassis off, and the assistance for tying nodes to chassis for inventory purposes. Realistically, the “killer” feature of the CMC is using fewer cables to wire everything. Reducing 4 cables helps mitigate the 2U4N cabling challenge.

Next, we are going to look at the performance before moving to power consumption and our final words.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Aesthetics
9.7
Performance
9.6
Feature Set
9.5
Value
9.3
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Patrick has been running STH since 2009 and covers a wide variety of SME, SMB, and SOHO IT topics. Patrick is a consultant in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about server, storage and networking, building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

3 COMMENTS

  1. where are the Gigabyte H261-Z61 and H261-Z60 available at? I’m having difficulty sourcing them in the US.

  2. Can the management controller be configured to expose a low traffic management network to the host operating system?

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