The Supermicro X11SPM-TPF is a platform we have wanted to review since it originally came out. This is a mATX Intel Xeon Scalable motherboard which means it has relatively diminutive dimensions. Additionally, it utilizes the onboard Intel LAN function to provide dual SFP+ networking along with expansion capabilities in that compact package. In our review, we are going to show you the platform and its capabilities, and talk about where we see it being used.
Supermicro X11SPM-TPF Overview
The Supermicro X11SPM-TPF is a mATX motherboard which means it measures 9.6″ x 9.6″. This is far from the most exotic motherboard out there, but it also has one major benefit: it is compact. The 9.6″ is about 20% shorter than a full ATX motherboard which means systems designers can make smaller systems or fit more alongside the motherboard in 19″ rackmount deployments such as additional SSDs.
The main feature is the Intel LGA3647 socket which accepts first or second-generation Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs. There is a limitation, the CPU socket only is rated for up to 165W TDP CPUs. Also, given the small size of the platform, one gets six DDR4 slots. That means one can fill all six memory channels with up to DDR-2933 modules and up to 1.5TB of memory. Full Xeon Scalable platforms can handle two DIMMs per channel for up to 12 DIMMs per socket. Still, six or fewer DIMMs is extremely popular in this segment so we see this as covering most use cases in the segment.
PCIe Gen3 expansion includes two x16 slots and a x8 slot. The x8 slot is open-ended which means that one could put a x16 physical card that runs at x8 electrical in the slot, even though the clearance is tight. One of the PCIe x16 slots has a GPU retention latch to keep GPUs in the slot during shipping. That same x16 slot is a double-width slot. At the end of the board, we find another x16 slot. Unlike with lower-end Xeon E-2200 motherboards, with the Supermicro X11SPM-TPF, all three of these slots have a full set of dedicated PCIe lanes directly to the CPU without using PCIe switches.
Together these three slots account for 40 of the 48 possible CPU PCIe Gen3 lanes. The other 8 lanes are not being wasted. Instead, they are being used to augment the bandwidth to the Intel C622 PCH to give additional I/O bandwidth to the rest of the platform.
Between the two PCIe x16 slots is a M.2 slot that can take M.2 2242 (42mm) or 2280 (80mm) SSDs. The M.2 slot is PCIe Gen3 x4 which means it has full bandwidth available. The M.2 slot utilizes the Intel C622 PCH for connectivity which is one reason why those additional eight PCIe lanes from the CPU to the PCH are important.
Storage goes far beyond a single M.2 slot. The platform has a total of 12x SATA III 6.0gbps ports. There are two gold 7-pin SATA connectors that can provide compatible SATADOMs with power. Two additional 7-pin SATA connectors are in the corner of the board. One can see two SFF-8087 ports onboard. These are commonly used for SAS connectivity but here they are each dedicated to providing four SATA III lanes in a high-density form factor. One can use SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 cables directly to chassis storage backplanes or use breakout cables to get individual 7-pin SATA connection points.
Additionally, there is a USB 3.0 type-A header. Next to the PCH, one can also see the USB 3.0 front panel header for cases that support it.
Rear I/O includes a fairly standard Supermicro I/O block. There are legacy VGA and serial ports. One can see four USB ports. Two are USB 2.0 and two are USB 3.0. Above the USB 2.0 ports, there is an out of band management NIC port.
The big difference here is the dual SFP+ 10GbE ports. One can see the cages next to the USB 3.0 Type-A rear ports. Supermicro is doing something different than we see on many of their designs. The company is using the Intel X722 NIC on the upgraded Intel C622 PCH to deliver the 10GbE MAC. There is a small Inphi CS4227 PHY, but the OS will see the Intel X722 NIC:
We wanted to take a moment and address the Supermicro X11SPM-TF which is very similar but instead of having the Inphi CS4227 and SFP+ cages, it has and Intel X557 chip where the pads are shown in the picture below along with two RJ45 ports. Supermicro X11SPM-F version of this motherboard downgrades to the lower cost C621 PCH and has only 1GbE connectivity. That means that one can select the X11SPM family and pick SKUs for specific networking options to build servers or appliances.
Overall, the Supermicro X11SPM-TPF is a great low-cost and compact motherboard that exposes many of the Intel Xeon Scalable platform’s unique features.
Next, we are going to look at management features before moving onto performance, topology, and then our final words.