Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Is the Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 a Workstation Motherboard?
Calling the Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 a “workstation” motherboard borders on sensationalism. We used it as such in our piece: Introducing the Ultra EPYC AMD Powered Sun Ultra 24 Workstation. On the one hand, it works. On the other, one misses a lot of functionality. Here is what we might expect on a modern workstation motherboard:
- Onboard audio
- Additional USB 3.0 Ports
- USB Type-C / USB 3.1
- Onboard 7-pin SATA (note there are Slim SAS SATA ports)
- Multiple onboard M.2 slots (not just one)
- Excellent fan control for quiet operation
Most of these are easily correctable via PCIe add-in card slots. At the same time, doing so means one is utilizing the very slots that make this motherboard so unique. There are two rear USB 3.0 ports, and internally the USB 3.0 header’s orientation can create some tight fits. Here is an example from the Ultra EPYC.
The SATA situation is quite nice with the four Slim SAS connectors. We like this. At the same time, that means one does not have any traditional 7-pin SATA connectors for SATA DOMs or other lower-cost storage options. Instead, one needs Slim SAS cabling.
Fan control can be done via IPMI, but that is a different level of involvement than having a nice GUI. If you are using multiple GPUs, cooling noise will become considerable.
Finally, as of this writing, one can utilize high-core count EPYC processors, like the AMD EPYC 7551P. With that said, the AMD EPYC 7371 is a better workstation fit due to higher clock speeds. They are not quite in the 4.5-5.0GHz range common on many consumer and higher-end workstation parts, but it is close to 4.0GHz at least making it bearable for inevitable single-threaded tasks. The processor selection is still not optimal. On the other hand, you choose AMD EPYC single socket for its PCIe connectivity which the Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 delivers upon.
Even with these challenges, the Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 can be utilized as a workstation motherboard. At the same time, we want our readers to go into that fully knowing that there are going to be a few challenges involved with using a server motherboard as a workstation part. To decree this a workstation motherboard without noting challenges would be disingenuous. If you are thinking of using the MZ01-CE0 for your own, or your customer’s workstations, you should be aware that you will need to augment peripheral connectivity.
Gigabyte MZ01-CE0 Topology and Block Diagram
With the AMD EPYC 7001 “Naples” generation, system topology is more important in a single socket form factor than it has been for some time. We have started showing topology maps for our system and motherboard reviews.
Here we had an M.2 NVMe installed on the motherboard along with a 40GbE NIC installed in a PCIe 3.0 x8 slot. As you can see, with this configuration we have all four NUMA nodes with attached PCIe devices using the Gigabyte MZ01-CE0.
Here is the official block diagram for the motherboard:
As one can see, this is a robust block diagram for an ATX platform. We would have liked to have seen AMD tie PCIe lanes to Naples dice, however, with Rome coming we can see why they would not.
Next, we are going to look at the management solution which is a significant departure from what Gigabyte used previously.