Gigabyte ThunderXStation using Cavium ThunderX2 Launched

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Gigabyte ThunderXStation
Gigabyte ThunderXStation

Perhaps one of the coolest pieces of news coming from the OCP Summit 2018, Gigabyte has launched a new ThunderXStation. This is a 4U workstation that comes with a dual ThunderX2 motherboard and is much quieter than the server variants. If you were looking to do ARM64 development using higher-end server hardware instead of Raspberry Pi’s, ODROIDs, and other low-power development boards, this is probably the top solution in the market. We recently visited Cavium and got additional details on the ThunderXStation and Cavium ThunderX2 that we will be able to share at a later date.

Why A Gigabyte ThunderXStation Developer Station

We have used a number of development platforms, from Intel’s Xeon D development platform with lots of sharp edges to the Intel/ Supermicro Knights Landing developer station that was water cooled. Although Intel Knights Landing and Knights Mill are essentially dying platforms, the Supermicro SYS-5038K-I-ES1 Intel Xeon Phi x200 Developer Workstation Review we quickly saw the value of having a lower cost deskside (27″x17″x7″) development platform. On the ARM side, these are the types of machines that need to get into the field.

Having a lower-noise developer station for ThunderX2 does a few things. First, it allows university and other departments to purchase a dual ARM64 system at a relatively low cost. Second, although small development board clusters are interesting, the ThunderXStation has features that make it useful for real deployments. Namely the ability to handle up to 16x DDR4 RDIMMs, utilize 10GbE as well as faster networking (up to 100GbE), and significant amounts of NVMe storage among others. Beyond these features, it also has the ability to be managed using industry standard tools such as IPMI using an ASPEED AST2500 BMC. Those are big-deal items that can move 64-bit ARM development from “clusters of curiosity” using inexpensive development boards, to something that can actually be deployed in a data center and managed alongside existing infrastructure.

Beyond the copious RAM capacity, ThunderX2 allows for up to 32 cores/ 128 thread per socket meaning the ThunderXStation can hit up to 64 cores and 256 threads with two CPUs installed.

At STH we are working with Gigabyte and Cavium and will share more about the ThunderX2 architecture as we are given the go-ahead. We have heard the next production run is in the Q2 2018 timeframe.

Gigabyte ThunderXStation Tech Specs

Here are the key specs we received on the workstation/ server:

  • Form Factor: 4U Tower
  • CPU: Single or Dual socket ThunderX2 ARM64 Processors
  • Memory: Up to 16 DDR4 Channels
  • PCIe: 6 x PCIe 3.0 Slots and 2 x OCP x16 slots
  • Network: 2 x 1/10 GbE QLogic NIC
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce® GT710 with dual monitor support
  • BMC: ASPEED AST2500 with IPMI management SW
  • Storage: 4 x NVMe + 2 x 2.5″ U.2/SATA III combo bay
  • Firmware: AMI Aptio V ® UEFI and AMI MegaRAC™ BMC
  • OS/Tools: CentOS 7.4 with gcc/LLVM/gdb tool chain, OpenJDK 9.0

The actual motherboard has a few interesting specs beyond those mentioned above:

  • Single or dual CPU operation
  • Integrated chipset
  • 8x DIMMs per CPU using DDR4 2666/2400/2133 MHz DIMMs
  • ASPEED AST2500 BMC with:
    • 1x Management LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps
    • Integrated VGA, 1920×1200
  • 3x PCIe Gen 3.0 slots per CPU which an be configured as (1x 16 lane + 1x 8 lane) OR (3x 8 lanes)
  • 1x Type-1 OCP PCIe Gen 3.0 x16 slot per CPU
  • 2x NVMe PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 ports with onboard SAS slimline connectors per CPU
  • 2x SATA III onboard connectors
  • 2x U.2 or SATA III 2.5″ drive bay, supports any combination of NVMe and SATA III SSDs
  • 1x RS-232 port
  • 4x USB 3.0 ports
  • 2x 8-pin GPU power connectors

That means this system will have connectivity for NVMe drives, GPUs and high-speed networking.

Update: Here is a shot of the ThunderXStation from OCP Summit 2018’s show floor. We passed along feedback regarding a suggested configuration and pricing.

Cavium ThunderXStation At OCP Summit 2018
Cavium ThunderXStation At OCP Summit 2018

10 COMMENTS

  1. My feedback for this is I’d prefer if there was a complete base system priced with options.

    It all says 1 or 2 could but what are cores and clocks? What are features? What do I lose with 1 CPU? How do I get a quote for a complete system or even know if it’s worth the time?

    There needs to be a config all in price under $4999 so I can use a grant and I don’t need to get our central procurement involved. Trying to explain why this is better than a Dell or something means I’ve got to explain to procurement that they’re special CPUs.

  2. Look at that brown square on the mobo, it is a HUGE CPU slot.

    I don’t understand what is taking so long for Cavium to get their TX2 in the hands of review sites like STH, my only hypothesis when a company hides their product from reviewers is that the product is a flop (and I really hope it isn’t).

  3. Sweet! Finally something worth thinking about. With the low-noise I would be a little bit conservative since on the picture the board is probably connected to dual/redundant PSUs like in real server and those PSUs are usually PITA w.r.t. high-pitch noise.
    Anyway, still, two questions: (1) price and (2) market availability?

  4. KarelG – I have passed along this price feedback since we have gotten that a lot. Noise wise, I expect it to be better than the 2U offering! Availability is slated for Q2.

  5. Patrick — if you have ThunderX2 in your lab, please do not hesitate to post benchmarks as/once you are allowed. I somehow believe that this CPU is interesting so would like to see concrete numbers. Thanks!

  6. Patrick, can you also share, when allowed, how it compares TDP wise to Xeon/RISC-V/Power9 ?
    Thanks in advance.

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