Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Internal Server Overview
For this piece, we are going to show more angles and photos than we normally do of some specific parts of the server’s internals. We realize this is an important industry platform, but it is also one that few of our readers will have seen.
Huawei TaiShan 200 2.5″ NVMe SSD and SATA/SAS Backplane
Taking a look at the front of the chassis, we can see the storage backplane, a large channel for cables, then the fan partition.
The storage backplane supports up to eight PCIe Gen4 x4 NVMe SSDs. It also has provisions for the other sixteen slots being SATA/ SAS.
For those wondering from photos, the backplane is not bent wildly. Instead, the sheet metal above the backplane has a curve to it.
Something that is different here is that we see a lot of the industry move to backplanes that are segmented into thirds on 2U 24-bay designs. That allows flexibility in configuration and reduces the failure domain if a backplane fails. 8-drive backplanes for 2.5″ are also easier to service. Still, it is just interesting to see how this server is built.
Huawei TaiShan 200 Cooling
The middle of the chassis, behind the storage backplane is designed for cooling. There are four large fans and then an airflow guide. Here we can see that setup, and also a small but nice feature with the DIMM slots labeled on the airflow guide along with which CPU is which. This is a small feature but a nice one to have whenever a DIMM fails and needs to be serviced.
The fans use six-pin custom connectors, but the fans only have five wires so not all six pins are being used. The fans are non-redundant and do not have counter-rotating designs. Still, it appears as though there are several unused fan connectors on the motherboard. There are also unpopulated pads labeled for 1U servers. As a result, we think there are 1U versions of this motherboard with those fan headers populated and perhaps even other fan configurations that we do not have.
Perhaps the most interesting part here is the giant gap. Between the fans and the airflow guide over the CPUs, there is a very large gap when most servers start the airflow guide directly at the exhaust of the fans to reduce airflow turbulence. Huawei does not do this. For those who are wondering if the airflow guide was in the wrong place, there are notches it fits into on the chassis edge to keep it situated. This is very different from most server designs we see from other vendors.
The fans themselves actually fit easily into the custom connectors. Given the design, we did not know how that hot-swap process would work. It was certainly an upside surprise.
Something that was a bit different with the fans is that they have slats. These slats allow air to pass during normal operation. If a fan fails, these slats can close, thereby not allowing airflow leakage through the stopped fan.
The top of the airflow guide also has spaces for BBU mounting for RAID controllers. We did not have these batteries, but this is a common spot to place them in servers.
Huawei TaiShan 200 Kunpeng 920 CPUs and DIMMs
The CPU area looks very modern. We get two CPUs with large heatsinks and 16x DIMMs for each CPU. That means 8-channel memory and a total of 32 DIMMS. This is similar to the Ampere Altra (Max), AMD EPYC, and Intel Ice Lake Xeons of the DDR4 era.
Here is a look at the area with the airflow guide removed.
Here it another view. One will notice our server came with 6 DDR4 DIMMs per CPU. The memory is DDR4 ECC and supports RDIMMs. We are using 8x 32GB per CPU for performance testing, but there are still some quirks to iron out. In our recent Solidigm D7-P5520 7.68TB PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD Review on x86 Arm and Power9 it took some time just to get something as simple as that NVMe SSD working reasonably well on this system.
The CPUs themselves are Huawei, HiSilicon Kunpeng 920 models. They are 48 core 2.6GHz CPUs. Kunpeng 920 models scaled to 64 cores, but this is what we can get. As we get the system sorted, we will have more formal performance figures, but our 48 core models are roughly equivalent to Cascade Lake 24 core Xeon models in integer workloads. There is more memory bandwidth available and PCIe in this platform.
Perhaps one of the most interesting connectors we saw was this one. The “CPU1 Hydra” connector.
Here is the CPU2 Hydra connector:
Hydra is the name given to Huawei’s CPU to CPU interconnect and seems to be roughly analogous to AMD EPYC’s Infinity Fabric and the Intel Xeon UPI. We typically do not see UPI cables. We see the AMD EPYC IF cables from time to time as they can be repurposed to PCIe lanes, as we saw in our Dell EMC PowerEdge R7525 review. We will show Hydra a bit more in the block diagram section of this article.
Next, we are going to take a look at the motherboard in a bit more detail.