Hands-on GIGABYTE Server MB51-PS0 motherboard featuring 4 core Intel Xeon D-2123IT: unboxing in 4K

Posted by Paul Braren on Aug 20 2018 (updated on Oct 9 2018) in
  • CPU
  • HomeLab
  • HomeServer
  • ESXi
  • XeonD-2100
  • Ever since writing my first Xeon D-2100 hands-on article, which was a world-first-look actually:

    I've been a bit disappointed with how that all went down. First, there was the short test interval. Then there was the power supply mismatch. Finally, I had to lament how this particular member of the Xeon D-2100 Family was seriously held back by the too-tiny the form-factor and 1U chassis, with little chance to really show off what this platform could possibly do for the enthusiast willing to invest in a bigger chassis, with some assembly required.

    Let's face it. The Xeon D-2100 CPU itself is pretty big. It has a higher watt burn than Xeon D. It's just not as easy a choice for IoT as the Xeon D-1500 was, as it's mostly just squeezing more out of the same 14 nm process. Things were so tight on that system's motherboard that there was no space left on its Mini ITX (6.7" x 6.7" / 17 cm x 17 cm) to cram even one M.2 slot. There went the best interface choice for NVMe SSD storage.

    So what if the motherboard were allowed to grow up and out a bit, ATX (12" x 9.6" / 30.5 cm x 9.6 cm), where there's now room for 14 SATA3 ports, a U.2 port for NVMe SSDs like Intel Optane, and that wonderfully handy M.2 slot? Wait, how about 2 PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots too? You'll see it all, close-up, in glorious 4K video below.

    It's fair to say it's been a long while since I've had my mitts on some GIGABYTE bits, so I enter this new experience with an open mind and a fresh start. I'll try to reserve any judgment until I get a chance to try things out, and you can be sure I'll share my observation and analysis right here at TinkerTry.

    GIGABYTE MB51-PS0 (rev. 1.0)

    Click to visit source of image on the GIGABYTE MB51-PS0 Product Page.

    Overview, Specification, Support, News & Awards, Learn More.

    Why might 2 PCIe slots be helpful?

    Click to see Product Page

    What if you wish to go all NVMe? If 4x4x4x4 bifurcation is a feature of the BIOS for both of these slots, then this could allow as many as 4 M.2 devices in each PCI slot, using a low cost (sub $100) pass through full-speed device like the HYPER M.2 X16 CARD that’s available on Amazon, B&H, and Newegg. Yes, that's 8 M.2 drives, plus a 9th M.2 NVMe on the motherboard, and a 10th via U.2! That’s a lot of full-NVMe-speed PCIe 3.0 X4 lanes, and according to the block diagram below, this board’s got them! See also picture below.

    All-in-one vSAN POC?

    Things could get even more interesting with NVMe-pass-through too, potentially for NAS or even (unsupported) vSAN testing. The POC (Proof Of Concept) I have in mind would be to claim a pair of M.2 NVMe drives for each of the four drive groups, one drive group per nested ESXi instance. Each group would consisting of one capacity SSD and one (higher write endurance) caching SSD per disk group. That way, 8 M.2 SSDs could be offered up as one vSAN datastore, with the queue depth that vSAN needs to shine. Performance would likely be well beyond what any mobo’s baked-in SATA3 controller could ever offer.

    This is just a motherboard, not a system

    Image from gigabyte.com

    This motherboard ships with either the Xeon D-2123IT 4 core or Xeon D-2143IT 8 core processor soldered on, with 2 Intel X557 10GbE interfaces, plus the 3rd RJ45 port, dedicated to out-of-band management, a requirement to be a really contender for server class duties. It's called GIGABYTE Server Management (GSM), and the related GSM Dashboard view of multiple nodes looks promising. It apparently includes a real-time look at power consumption, a feature Supermicro X11/Xeon D-2100 systems lack.

    Image from gigabyte.com

    Gladly, I received the 8 core version of this motherboard. It's said to run fine with VMware ESXi 6.7, and I surely can't wait to try it out to see for myself. Note that VMware vSphere 6.5 / 6.7 support isn't currently called out for any GIGABYTE motherboards in the VMware Compatibility Guide, but at least some members of the Xeon D-2100 Family are. Close might not be enough to get support from VMware should you need it, and I've identified this as a potential concern with a GIGABYTE contact.

    That said, here's a promising excerpt from GIGABYTE'S Product Page:

    Management through VMware vCenter
    A GSM plugin is also available for VMware’s vCenter, eliminating the need to become familiar with a different user interface and software platform. The plugin provides the following information and functions:

    • Physical host hardware information
    • Hardware sensor status
    • Physical host abnormal event
    • Power on / power off / restart functions

    Assembly Required, Not TinkerTry'd Yet

    I have some power supplies, chassis, and two to four 32GB DDR4 DIMMs that should work fine, but it will take some time to get around to testing it all, and who knows what surprises might be lurking. I really don't know how it will turn out, but the odds seem pretty good. Oddly, I can't even find an instruction manual for this system, not yet anyway. There is a short Easy BIOS Update User Guide.

    Stay tuned

    This is just a first article, squeezing it in before departing for Las Vegas this weekend as I prep for presentations I'm doing at VMworld 2018 US. You can be sure I'll have some Xeon D in that Southwest airlines overhead compartment. I don't yet know which systems though, we'll see...

    MB51-PS0 Block Diagram

    Image from gigabyte.com


    Unboxing of the GIGABYTE Server Xeon D-2123IT 8 core ATX Motherboard MB51-PS0 [in 4K]
    PCWorld YouTube Channel - How a motherboard is made: Inside the Gigabyte factory in Taiwan

    This motherboard unit is on loan from GIGABYTE, with no prior review of this article or video, and no restrictions or stipulations. GIGABYTE has been very responsive and pleasant to communicate with.

    Aug 22 2018 Update

    I quickly received some very helpful updates from GIGABYTE, when asking for more details on GSM. Testing is still underway with the MB51-PS0. However, GIGABYTE also indicated that GSM should detect any GIGABYTE server with a BMC chip, therefore it should still function. Based on my inquiry, they have already updated the MW51-PS0 support page with download link to GSM software, seen here:

    Regarding the vCenter plugin, it is still undergoing internal testing, pending official release at the end of August. Once the download becomes available, GIGABYTE indicated they would inform me immediately, then I’ll update my readers accordingly.

    Aug 23 2018 Update

    I needed a second ASUS HYPER M.2 x4 card before flying to VMworld this weekend. Thankfully, B&H was able to ship right away, since Amazon and Newegg could not.

    A question came up about pricing. I don't know, but some speculation here, and on Intel ARK, this 8 core Xeon D-2143IT alone is listed for $566.00, even though it's not sold alone. Notice that the 8 core 65 W TDP is only 5 more than the 60 W TDP of the 4 core. Strangely, with the Xeon D-2100, moving up in core count gets you a lower 2133MHz memory speed, whereas on Xeon D-1500, it was the other way around.

    I also noticed that the block diagram above indicates M.2 and U.2 are shared with the bandwidth of one of the PCIe 3.0 slots. I'd like to test that out by stuffing both PCIe slots with four M.2 SSDs, seeing if I can then turn on birfurcation in the BIOS, then attaching my U.2 Intel Optane P900 too, using its included U.2-to-M.2 cable. I don't (yet) have a cable to attach it via the motherboard's U.2 connector, unfortunately. I see that on the connector socket is the following number, U10C038300T, which means it's a SlimSAS-U10 connector, aka Slim Line SAS SFF-8654. So what I need a U.2 SFF-8639 to SFF-8654 adapter cable, such as this one on Amazon.

    I took some pics, seen below. I also came across a GIGABYTE factory motherboard assembly article, and added the related video above. Enjoy!


    MB51-PS0 with an Amfeltec M.2 x 4 HHHL PCIe card and an ASUS HYPER M.2 x4 FHHL PCIe card
    Close-up, notice the holographic Avocent logo on the GIGABYTE IPMI 2.0 / BMC ASPEED AST2500 chip.

    Aug 24 2018 Update

    I now have the instruction manuals!

    Quick Reference Guide:

    At the above site, you'll find a direct link for the American English version along with the...

    Management Console User’s Guide (AST 2500 Chipset) Version: 1.2

    also known as the User Guide - Management Console.

    Aug 26 2018 Update

    I'm disapointed to find that the unit I was shipped is actually 4 cores, not 8, so I've updated the title of the article and video accordingly. That mistake was completely on me, now that I've gone back and looked at the original communications with GIGABYTE Server.

    VMware ESXi 6.7 installed and worked well, and I've decided to bring the system to VMworld 2018 US with me, should be a good conversation starter!

    I have some teaser pics for you below, taken while the system was running, quite quietly I might add. You'll notice that the U.2 SFF-8639 to SFF-8654 adapter cable that I got on Amazon worked nicely for getting my Intel Optane 900P U.2 drive connected.

    I have some video of the HTML5 based KVM, BIOS settings, and installation/updating of VMware ESXi 6.7. The raw footage needs some editing though, and I'll be at VMworld 2018 US all week. I'm not sure when I'll have time (and upstream bandwidth) to get that footage polished and published.

    Cluster of two Xeon D servers and network switch and router using 108 watts total.
    GIGABYTE Server MB51-PS0 Motherboard using using 77 watts with ESXi at idle.

    Sep 19 2019 Update

    GIGABYTE Server got back to me about the numerous inquires about pricing and availability. Turns out challenges with packaging of the custom heatsink and motherboard together mean that currently:

    the MB51-PS0 is only being sold in bulk to system integrators

    I'm sorry this is the case, and I didn't know this going into working with this system, but I certainly don't regret it either. It's always great to see how other manufacturers handle things like out-of-band management and firmware updates and such. At least we now have an answer on current status, even if it's not what we wanted to hear.

    If you wish for this motherboard, or the 8 core variant, to come to market for anybody to purchase, please drop a comment below, which will help GIGABYTE Server know demand. Thank you!

    See also at TinkerTry






    See also