Visual Inspection

I knew server boards were large, but coming from the ATX and E-ATX standards, this thing is huge.  It measures 330mm x 305mm (13” x 12”) which correlates to the SSI EEB specification for server motherboards.  This is the size exact size of an official E-ATX motherboard (despite a small amount of loose definition), but to put the icing on the cake, the mounting holes for the motherboard are different to the normal ATX standards.  If we took a large case, like the Rosewill Blackhawk-Ultra, it supports ATX, SSI CEB, XL-ATX, E-ATX and HPTX, up to 13.6” x 15”, but not SSI EEB.  Thus drilling extra holes for standoffs may be required.

Unlike the SR-X or Z9PE-D8 WS, the GA-7PESH1 supports two memory modules per channel for all channels on board.  In terms of specifications this means support for up to 128 GB UDIMM (i.e. regular DDR3), 128 GB UDIMM ECC, and 512 GB RDIMM ECC.  Due to the nature of the design, only 1066-1600 MHz is supported, but the GA-7PESH1 supports 1600 MHz when all slots are populated.  For our testing, Kingston has kindly supplied us with 8x4GB of their 1600 C11 ECC memory.

As with the majority of server boards, stability and longevity is a top priority.  This means no overclocking, and Gigabyte can safely place a six phase power delivery on each CPU – it also helps that all SB-E Xeons are multiplier locked and there is no word of unlocked CPUs being released any time soon.  As we look at the board, standards dictate that the CPU on the right is designated as the first CPU.  Each CPU has access to a single fan header, and specifications for coolers are fairly loose in both the x and the y directions, limited only by memory population and the max z-height of the case or chassis the board is being placed into.  As with all dual CPU motherboards, each CPU needs its own Power Connector, and we find them at the top of the board behind the memory slots and at opposite ends.  The placement of these power connectors is actually quite far away for a normal motherboard, but it seems that the priority of the placement is at the edge of the board.  In between the two CPU power connectors is a standard 24-pin ATX power connector.

One of the main differences I note coming from a consumer motherboard orientation is the sheer number of available connectors and headers on such a server motherboard.  For example, the SATA ports have to be enabled by moving the jumpers the other side of the chipset.  The chipset heatsink is small and basic – there is no need for a large heatsink as the general placement for such a board would be in a server environment where noise is not particularly an issue if there are plenty of Delta fans to help airflow.

On the bottom right of the board we get a pair of SATA ports and three mini-SAS connections.  These are all perpendicular to the board, but are actually in the way of a second GPU being installed in a ‘normal’ motherboard way.  Users wishing to use the second PCIe x8 slot on board may look into PCIe risers to avoid this situation.  The heatsink on the right of this image covers up an LSI RAID chip, allowing the mSAS drives to be hardware RAIDed.

As per normal operation on a C602 DP board, the PCIe slots are taken from the PEG of one CPU.  On some other boards, it is possible to interweave all the PCIe lanes from both CPUs, but it becomes difficult when organizing communication between the GPUs on different CPUs.  From top to bottom we get an x8 (@x4), x16, x8 (@x4), x16 (@x8), x4(@x1).  It seems odd to offer these longer slots at lower speed ratings, but all of the slots are Gen 3.0 capable except the x4(@x1).  The lanes may have been held back to maintain data coherency.

To those unfamiliar with server boards, of note is the connector just to the right of center of the picture above.  This is the equivalent of the front panel connection on an ATX motherboard.  At almost double the width it has a lot more options, and where to put your cables is not printed on the PCB – like in the old days we get the manual out to see what is what.

On the far left we have an ASPEED AST2300 chip, which has multiple functions.  On one hand it is an onboard 2D graphics chip which powers the VGA port via its ARM926EJ (ARM9) core at 400 MHz.  For the other, it as an advanced PCIe graphics and remote management processor, supporting dual NICs, two COM ports, monitoring functions and embedded memory.  Further round this section gives us a removable BIOS chip, a COM header, diagnostic headers for internal functions, and a USB 2.0 header.

The rear IO is very bare compared to what we are normally used to.  From left to right is a serial port, the VGA port, two gigabit Ethernet NICs (Intel I350), four USB 2.0 ports, the KVM server management port, and an ID Switch button for unit identification.  There is no audio here, no power/reset buttons, and no two-digit debug LED.  It made for some rather entertaining/hair removing scenarios when things did not go smoothly during testing.

Board Features

Gigabyte GA-7PESH1
Price Contact:
17358 Railroad St.
City of Industry
CA 91748
+1-626-854-9338
Size SSI EEB
CPU Interface LGA 2011
Chipset Intel C602
Memory Slots Sixteen DDR3 DIMM slots supporting:
128GB (UDIMM) @ 1.5V
512GB (RDIMM) @ 1.5V
128GB DDR3L @ 1.35 V
Quad Channel Arcitecture
ECC RDIMM for 800-1600 MHz
Non-ECC UDIMM for 800-1600 MHz
Video Outputs VGA via ASPEED 2300
Onboard LAN 2 x Intel I350 supporting uo to 1000 Mbps
Onboard Audio None
Expansion Slots 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16
1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (@ x8)
2 x PCIe 3.0 x8 (@ x4)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4 (@ x1)
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps, Supporting RAID 0,1
2 x mini-SAS 6 Gbps, Supporting RAID 0,1
1 x mini-SAS 3 Gbps, Supporting RAID 0,1
USB 6 x USB 2.0 (Chipset) [4 back panel, 2 onboard]
Onboard 2 x SATA 6 Gbps
2 x mSAS 6 Gbps
1 x mSAS 3 Gbps
1 x USB 2.0 Header
4 x Fan Headers
1 x PSMI header
1 x TPM header
1 x SKU KEY header
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
2 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin)
2 x SYS (4-pin, 3-pin)
IO Panel 1 x Serial Port
1 x VGA
2 x Intel I350 NIC
4 x USB 2.0
1 x KVM NIC
1 x ID Switch
Warranty Period Refer to Sales
Product Page Link

Without having a direct competitor to this board on hand there is little we can compare such a motherboard to.  In this level having server grade Intel NICs should be standard, and this board can take 8GB non-ECC memory sticks or 32GB ECC memory sticks, for a maximum of 512 GB.  If your matrix solvers are yearning for memory, then this motherboard can support it.

The Perspective Gigabyte GA-7PESH1 BIOS
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  • JonnyDough - Tuesday, January 08, 2013 - link

    I don't know if I speak for everyone, but I would really love to see some gaming benchmarks.

    I realize that this system is not designed or optimized for gaming, but it would be interesting nonetheless to see what two processors does, or does not do for gaming. :)
    Reply
  • npcomplete - Tuesday, January 08, 2013 - link

    ...it just gets to the meat of computing!

    Thanks for this article. It woke up the scientist in me.
    Reply
  • esung - Wednesday, January 09, 2013 - link

    I'm very curious as the result. Have you tried to bench 1 2690 vs 2 2690s? It almost like the benchmark are limited by CPU frequency instead of threads/cores it has. Reply
  • CodeToad - Saturday, January 19, 2013 - link

    Ian - I really enjoyed reading your effort here. There is a large, and I think underserved, community of scientific users who need this kind of information. Digging through IEEE/ASM communications is often just too much. Doing the work here - or anywhere - is a real help.

    I'm a retired economist (PhD Chicago, '81) and (in my case) thankfully haven't done physical, much less computational, chemistry since undergrad. Never the less, we have similar technical needs.

    I've become a huge fan of open source software. In my "home lab," which my wife calls The Frat House, some grad students and I have been diligently working with the R Language (statistics), nascent risk and optimization tools, and a mash-up of database, data warehouse, and "business intelligence" tools, all open source. The goal someday -- beat SAS silly and obviate that $100-300K price tag!

    The more demure and do-able daily work is just cleaning up and optimizing open source code, contributing that back as individual packages. The "hits" and email indicates a good adoption rate.

    Ian, CUDA is of big interest to the people we're in communication with, and I have to admit some real fascination personally. As you have real-world experience, how about a series of articles. I hope ANDATECH would support that work!!

    Very best to you - hope to be "reading" you soon!!
    Reply

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