The Most Important Server of 2022 The Gigabyte Ampere Altra Max and NVIDIA A100


Gigabyte G242-P32 External Hardware Overview

The front of the server is one we have seen before. If you saw our Gigabyte G242-Z10 review, you will notice this server uses a similar front configuration. On top, we have massive vents to allow for the airflow required to cool GPUs.

Gigabyte G242 R32 Front
Gigabyte G242 P32 Front

There is only a small provision here for USB and status LEDs. Otherwise, the top portion is all vents.

Gigabyte G242 R32 Front Panel
Gigabyte G242 P32 Front Panel

Below the vents are four 3.5″ bays. These bays support SAS or SATA. Gigabyte has other options for GPUs and Arm CPUs. The storage configuration was a “whatever we have in the lab” special.

Gigabyte G242 R32 3.5in HDD
Gigabyte G242 P32 3.5in HDD

The rear of the system has three key blocks. On the left, we have power supplies, the rear I/O and management. The middle has the PCIe slots for the system. The right side has a fan to handle the cooling needs of the GPUs.

Gigabyte G242 R32 Rear
Gigabyte G242 P32 Rear

This is a very different configuration. Gigabyte only makes so many Ampere Altra Arm motherboards. As a result, it needed to re-use a motherboard and innovate a bit on the chassis. The power supplies are above the rear I/O which is uncommon, but we will see why soon.

Gigabyte G242 R32 Rear IO
Gigabyte G242 P32 Rear IO

In terms of rear I/O we get a standard VGA, serial and three USB configuration. There is a management port as well as two 1GbE ports.

The power supplies are 1.6kW power supplies. This was enough for our configuration that generally did not get above 1kW.

Gigabyte G242 R32 1.6kW PSU
Gigabyte G242 P32 1.6kW PSU

In the middle of the system, we get PCIe Gen4 slots.

Gigabyte G242 R32 Rear PCIe
Gigabyte G242 P32 Rear PCIe

In this system they are being used primarily for the Broadcom LSI SAS 3008 HBA along with the DPUs/ other networking. We ended up using a NVMe adapter with a cable for our NVMe testing, but you could also use low-profile AIC SSDs here.

Gigabyte G242 R32 SAS 3008 And PCIe Slots
Gigabyte G242 P32 SAS 3008 And PCIe Slots

Next to the PCIe slots we have a fan. This is the exhaust fan for the GPU section.

Gigabyte G242 R32 Rear GPU Fan
Gigabyte G242 P32 Rear GPU Fan

Next, let us get inside the system in a bit more detail, focusing on the GPU installation first.


  1. I guess I’m curious as to what makes the Ampere Altra processor so “unpleasant” to install. Why would installing this chip be any different from installing any other, Patrick? Apart from the physical size, there doesn’t appear to be anything much different between this processor and all the other Intel, AMD and IBM chips I’ve seen.

  2. Stephen, super easy to answer. AMD and Intel both use carriers. AMD SP3 uses the CPU carrier that you slide in, then it is lowered in place. On the Intel side, if you install the CPUs correctly, then you are not touching the CPU when it is lowered aligned into the socket. With Ampere, you need to align it by hand versus AMD and Intel both have mechanical alignment. Even with suction cups, the Ampere socket does not have the same level of mechanical alignment before it is lowred into the socket.

    See how to install LGA4189 correctly Article and Video.

  3. @Patrick Kennedy

    Thanks for the very fast reply. Sounds like a possible engineering/design problem with the type of socket, maybe the ILM needs to be re-designed to allow for the alignment features you mention. Otherwise, I still don’t see how this is an absolute deal-breaker. The chip package itself should have keying notches in the edges that ought to provide enough positive feedback even when loaded by hand.

    Believe it or not, I did see your LGA-4189 installation article when it came out. Very well done and very useful. Now, if only we could have some higher-resolution photos of the chips you feature. I noticed that the photos of the Ponte Vecchio chip you had earlier were only a mere 800×600-ish pixels. Seems we need an upgrade to at least 1920×1080 minimum. I have a hard time seeing much detail, specifically where contact pads are concerned. I like drawing pictures of these things and being able to see the pads well enough to count them is a must.

    After all the recent coverage of the Altra and Altra Max, I’m kind of wishing someone on eBay would start selling used ones so I can buy one. CPU collecting is one of my hobbies and I’m longing to get my first LGA-4189 Xeon, LGA-4094 Threadripper/Epyc and one of these Altra chips. I can’t afford to buy these things when new and typically have to wait at least ten years before they’ll even show up in the used listings. Of course, somebody could donate one if they wanted to, though that’s probably asking too much of the Universe.


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