The Motherboard

For some time now I wanted to upgrade my homeserver, the one I have now is based on a 1st gen core i5 processor with 8GB of Ram sitting on an m-itx motherboard with only four sata connections. The four sata connections quickly became an obstacle to expand my array of harddisks. I solved that by buying a cheap Sata Controller I/O board, and to my surprise it actually worked very well. The Sata Controller allowed for an additional 4 Sata connections, which of course is great, but now I don’t have the opportunity to add other I/O cards because of the m-itx formats limitation of only having one pci-e port. I really like the m-itx form factor because of it’s physical size, but it is also the physical size that is it’s limitation, what I needed was a new motherboard.

I contacted ASRockRack to see if they were interested in sponsoring this endeavor of updating my server, and it turned out that they would, and a few days ago this came:

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A both classy and anonymous looking box with only a little information on the front, and just a little more on the back:

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Information is maybe stretching it a little, it is more advertisements but that makes sense to me, as the folks that buy this are for most part aware of what they are getting into, and they don’t necessary need more information from the box.

A box is all good and well, but what really is interesting is of course the content:

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What we see here is

  • A drivers DVD
  • Five SATA cables
  • An I/O shield
  • A manual

My initial thought was that isn’t much; I’m used to mainstream boards where there are screws, ceramic washers, door hangers, a soundcard or maybe even an antenna for Wi-Fi. but this is not a mainstream motherboard, it is servergrade and made for professional use, so door hangers aren’t really a buying factor – Come to think of it, is a door hanger really a factor when buying mainstream motherboards?

And here it is, the crown jewel; the ASRockRack ep2c602:

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Initially I proposed ASRockRack to sponsor the epc602d8a, which is a single socket motherboard – more that adequate for a home server, but as these boards feature chipsets that were launched in Q1 2012, they aren’t the newest out there, and the epc602d8a was no longer in stock, so ASRockRack suggested the ep2c602; I humbly accepted.

The center piece(s) of the ep2c602 are of course the two LGA 2011 cpu sockets, capable of supporting a large variety of intel Xeons int both Ivy- and Sandy bridge flavors, that means that should I ever want to upgrade the CPUs in this build I would have ample choice.
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To the left and to the right of the sockets (respectively) we see the mosfets, they are kept nice and cool by the heatsinks. Above and below the Dimm slots are clearly visible, combined they support 256GB of RAM. Though that would require that both CPU sockets are populated. Should only one CPU be used, it should be mounted in the left most socket, and as indicated earlier only the corresponding Dimms are usable in that case.

The 20+4 pin ATX connecter can be seen on the lower edge, and the two EPS 8 pin connectors are seen in the bottom left corner, and on the right edge, th2016-12-18 16.49.09.jpgere are two because there are two sockets, these EPS connectors feed the mosfets with power, they in turn feed the CPU with ripple minimized current. The fact that there are two, posses a challenge for my build, as my PSU only has a one connector, and that isn’t even an EPS connecter, but rather a 4 pin ATX connector, while this is enough to power on one CPU, it isn’t enough to power two CPUs. I guess we will have to look into that later, for now the 4 pin ATX must suffice.

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There are no less than eight fan headers on the ep2c602, and the seven are of the 4pin PWM persuasion, that means that noise from fans forced to run at full speed is nothing to be worried about, with this board. The two remaining  headers are placed near the second CPU socket; convenient.

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Ah the disk connectors…
The four blue ones farthest away are actually SCU connectors, I don’t own any SAS drives, but my guess it isn’t a problem connecting SATA drives to those, they should be compatible, there is only one way to be sure… Testing.

The four blue ones that are right angled on the PCB are SATAII ports and are, together with first two white ports (They are SATAIII though), controlled by the chipset. The last four white ports are SATAIII and controlled by a marvel controller.
Notice how the ten angled SATA connectors are pulled back from the edge of the motherboard? Yeah I was wondering about that myself, but it turns out it isn’t a bad idea, but more on that later.

The keen eye has probably already seen the onboard USB connector, this will come in handy; my operating system of choice is Lime-Technologys unRaid, which runs directly from a USB drive.

Behind the USB connector we se a pair 7 segment led displays which server the purpose of helping with diagnose the system should there errors.

2016-12-18-16-46-30On the Rear I/O panel we see some legacy connectors PS/2 for mouse and keyboard and a Serial connector, even though the latter isn’t use that often it can be very useful when working with network devices, as the preliminary configurations needs a serial connection.
We have the standard VGA connection, this system is going to run headless, but with early testing and configuration this will come in very handy.2016-12-18-16-47-12

Three RJ45 ports, two gigabit ports for LAN connection and one 100 megabit port for IPMI connection. I will do a more in depth post of the IPMI function. For now I will say that IPMI from an administrators point of view is bloody awesome!

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