At the end of October 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Quanta on a visit to Taipei, Taiwan. Many of our readers may not know Quanta, or its QCT arm, but Quanta is an enormous OEM/ ODM. They have been active in the hyper-scale infrastructure market on the data center side with many large customers. They also make other systems. A good example is that I heard a casual statistic mentioned while walking around the facility “Quanta makes 1 in 4 of all notebooks worldwide.” I did not get to follow-up on that, but this is a big business.
During my visit, I got to see a number of products that Quanta has on the market, and a few coming to market soon. I wanted to highlight a few of those in this article. I also was able to tour one of the data center integration labs that the company has on-site.
Quanta Goes AMD EPYC “Rome” in a Big Way
We spent a lot of time looking at what may be the biggest product line for Quanta in 2019 in terms of significance. Quanta sounds like they may have had an OEM/ ODM engagement for the AMD EPYC 7001 series, but they were not offering the systems in the open market. That changed with the AMD EPYC 7002 series codenamed Rome. Something that stood out in the discussion was that the company was highlighting clear performance leadership with AMD.
Quanta has various models, but they are centered around a dual-socket, and a single socket motherboard. These motherboards are paired with 1U or 2U chassis that can be customized for features such as 2.5” NVMe or 3.5” SATA drives.
We received the late OK to disclose an exciting model we saw in our visit, the QuantaPlex S43CA-2U. This is a 2U 4-node platform that is quite unlike any other 2U4N EPYC systems we have seen thus far. As such, we are going to lead with that platform.
QuantaPlex S43CA-2U 2U 4-Node 1P Monster
At STH, we have reviewed quite a few AMD EPYC 2U 4-node offerings. These include the Gigabyte H261-Z60, H261-Z61, and H262-Z62, the Cisco UCS C4200, and we have a Supermicro BigTwin EPYC edition in the lab along with covering the Supermicro 2U4N 1P AMD EPYC 7002 platform. The Quanta/ QCT QuantaPlex S43CA-2U is something different, and extremely exciting. This is a single socket 2U4N platform. As a result, one can leverage discounted CPU SKUs while still getting maximum PCIe Gen4 lanes in a platform. Other vendors have the same CPU density in upcoming platforms we have seen, but Quanta has a few special items.
Quanta is taking a different approach with the power supplies. Instead of locating them in the rear of the chassis along with sleds for each node, Quanta is putting them on the opposite side of the chassis. That means the sleds can be wider. As a result, Quanta is able to fit 16 DIMMs per node, twice of what many competitive offerings do or will offer.
The other neat feature that the QuantaPlex S43CA-2U offers is aggregated networking. Each node has a daughtercard for networking. This is then aggregated to minimize upstream cabling. We asked, and these are individual NICs, not multi-host adapters being used. Each NIC has 2x25GbE and those 25GbE links exit the chassis aggregated into two QFSP28 connectors in the I/O pass-through module. The I/O pass-through module also has its own ASPEED AST2520 for chassis management.
For expansion and storage, Quanta offers a number of offerings including low profile and full-height PCIe Gen4 slots for AI inferencing GPUs like the NVIDIA Tesla T4 and future cards.
Here is an example with the storage node which has 5x 2.5″ bays. The base motherboard has two M.2 PCIe/ SATA SSD slots which you can see in the diagram. You can also see a mounting point for a Super Cap if you need one for RAID.
We were also told that one can fit up to 225W TDP and 240W cTDP parts in this design which means it covers the entire, current, AMD EPYC 7002 series SKU stack.
Overall, the is highly impressive in terms of the specs it offers. Getting some hands-on time showed that Quanta has a great platform on its hands.
QuantaGrid S43KL-1U 1U AMD EPYC Platform
The QuantaGrid S43KL-1U platform is a single-socket 1U AMD EPYC platform. Looking at the front of the chassis something sticks out immediately. Quanta’s design allows for up to 12x 2.5″ NVMe SSDs at the front of the chassis. Many competitive systems only allow for 10x 2.5″ SSDs.
These 12x drive bays are cabled and Quanta has a nice backplane option for the 1U solution that allows for storage flexibility. There is also an array of redundant fans cooling the system. The slot next to the cables is actually a SAS RAID controller/ HBA slot if one wants to use legacy storage and does not want to utilize rear PCIe expansion.
This view we found notable. QCT has a full array of 16x DDR4 DIMMs. One of the unique features we see here is that one set of 8x DIMMs is actually slightly offset from the socket. Quanta can make that work while many vendors would have instead cut to a lower DIMM count design.
Expansion is very impressive. One can fit two full-height cards or up to three low profile cards depending on the riser configuration. There is a PCIe Gen4 OCP 3.0 NIC slot for 100GbE networking.
Naturally, there are redundant power supplies as well as two M.2 SSD slots onboard. Here is the company’s overview of the product:
If you were in the market for a HPE ProLiant DL325 Gen10 that we reviewed, the Quanta S43KL-1U is a more modern design with PCIe Gen4 and more expansion capabilities. There are a lot of market segments a product like this can fill.
QCT QuantaGrid D43K-1U 1U and D43KQ-2U Dual AMD EPYC Platforms
The QuantaGrid D43K-1U 1U and D43KQ-2U share a common motherboard design. This is very similar to how other OEMs have designed their 1U and 2U AMD EPYC platforms and it makes a lot of sense.
Looking inside the 1U QuantaGrid D43K-1U one can see the dual AMD EPYC sockets, each with 16x DDR4 DIMMs.
The rear of the chassis, one can see three low profile card slots and dual power supplies. One will notice that Quanta is essentially keeping the I/O features similar, including the OCP NIC and M.2 slots, with the single socket QuantaGrid S43KL-1U.
The similarity of features extends to 12x front NVMe bays and the same backplane configuration we saw on the single socket part. Keeping this consistent design language means that a customer can simply choose between single and dual-socket offerings and maintain a consistent feature set.
The same motherboard is used with a 2U chassis. Here we are taking apart the QCT QuantaGrid D43KQ-2U system. You can see the nice airflow guide that ducts air to the CPUs as well as the various expansion card options.
With this configuration, one gains more room for risers, and even rear storage options. This is in addition to features such as the OCP 3.0 PCIe Gen4 x8 NIC slot and M.2 slots.
Overall, the QCT design here is above what we are seeing in first-generation offerings such as the Dell EMC PowerEdge R7415. You can see some of the great QCT innovation throughout the company’s EPYC line.
Beyond the EPYC Platforms
During my visit, I saw a few other platforms that I wanted to note. Going beyond servers, Quanta is a big player in the networking space. There are three products I wanted to highlight. First is the company’s uCPE and IoT gateway device. Although Quanata is perhaps best known for working in cloud data centers, it is pushing out to the edge and has an entire line of uCPE/ edge gateway devices planned with a multi-year roadmap. I have no idea if the company meant to do this, but the model shown was in STH blue/ black.
Quanta also has an enormous networking arm. The company is now using the latest Broadcom silicon to create chassis switches for upcoming 100GbE and 400GbE deployments.
For the 5G/ Telco edge space, Quanta is getting into the market with a new Intel Xeon D-2100 series platform that can handle flexible storage, deployment, and expansion. If you want to deploy, for example, a NVIDIA Tesla T4 edge analytics platform quanta is developing solutions for you.
Overall, the theme was clear that the company is looking to push out from the hyper-scale data center and into the edge which will replace and expand the footprint of today’s networks.
Overall, it is great to see Quanta join the AMD EPYC 7002 series market. Having more vendors, each providing their unique spin on systems is a big benefit to the market as a whole. This is clearly a move that is being pushed by customers who want PCIe Gen4 today, rather than in the second half of 2020.
Stay tuned to STH for more on the Quanta platforms.