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Aug 17 2018

GIGABYTE Launches ARM Servers with Cavium ThunderX2 CPU

Taiwanese hardware vendor Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. – better known under its all-caps marketing moniker – has introduced two new dual-socket servers equipped with 64-bit ARM CPUs that will be offered as a "genuine alternative" to regular x86-64-based hardware for "mainstream datacenter deployment."

Initially launched in the U.S. about a week ago, the 1U, 10-bay R181-T90 and its cousin, the 2U, 24-bay R281-T91 rack servers are now available worldwide. As the marketing collateral implies, GIGABYTE hopes to ride the current wave of success for ARM-based systems, which have recently been deployed to HPC and cloud data centers at an increasing pace, and let the technology power your average bread-and-butter databases, SCM and ERP.

To this end, both models employ two 28-core Cavium™ ThunderX2® CN9975 processors based on an Arm® v8.1 architecture that run at clock speeds of 2.0 GHz. Each system is equipped with 24 memory slots designed to hold 8-channel, DDR4 RDIMMs that provide transfer rates between 2133 and 2666 MT/s; RAM capacities start at 64 GB and max out at 3 TB. Both the R181-T90 and the R281-T91 offer 2 x 10Gb/s SFP+ LAN interfaces and connect to internal storage via onboard SAS controllers. Slots for riser and OCP mezzanine cards add multiple expansion options. Finally, each includes a 2D Video Graphic Adapter with PCIe bus interface that allows for WUXGA resolution (1920 x 1200 pixels) and screen refresh rates of 60 Hz.

So much for the similarities. But as you may have already concluded from what we left out so far, there's one area in which both models differ profoundly from one another, and that area is storage: The 1U GIGABYTE R181-T90 has room for up to 10 hot-swappable, 2.5-inch SAS or SATA HDDs that can run in mixed or SATA-only configurations, whereas its 2U GIGABYTE R281-T91 counterpart can house up to 24 SAS or SATA HDDs or SSDs of the same size and type at the front and two more at the rear end and may even be enhanced with a SAS expander. With regard to storage capacities, GIGABYTE doesn't provide us with any specs or ceilings, but instead suggests customers consult their qualified vendor list (QVL) when picking hard disk or solid state drives. To further enhance speed or security, both servers support common and non-standard RAID levels (0/1/1E/10).

GIGABYTE's new ARM servers support a range of popular Linux distributions – among them Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.5, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15, and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS – and come equipped with a comprehensive software suite for local and remote management. As noted above, both are meant to serve as an alternative to the company's Intel® Xeon®- and AMD EPYC™-based systems with largely comparable qualities, but a slightly smaller set of operating systems to choose from. Prices were not disclosed; however, as with most ARM-based server systems, the price-performance ratio is supposed to be "excellent."


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