Searching for mATX Low Power Server Motherboard

All about them.

Moderators: NeilBlanchard, Ralf Hutter, sthayashi, Lawrence Lee

Post Reply
embeddedbob
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:08 am
Location: UK

Searching for mATX Low Power Server Motherboard

Post by embeddedbob » Wed Feb 17, 2010 3:37 am

Hi All,

Is this asking too much?

* mATX.
* 6 SATA (or 5 int SATA + 1 ext SATA).
* 4 memory slots so that 4x2GB is possible.
* Supports ECC detection and correction as ill be running 3x1.5TB disk in raidz (ZFS).
* BIOS undervoltable board (min 0.8v). As ill be running FreeBSD I havent found any undervoltable software.
* Some form of processor throttling, will be on 24/7. i.e. CnQ?
* Compatible with FreeBSD (support is excellant these days so not really a concern really).

Server running 3x1.5TB Disks + 1xSmall SSD + Connectivity for an external backup device eSATA or Firewire.
Need expansion for upto 8GB although ill start with 4GB as ill be running /tmp and /var/tmp from ram during runtime AND require at least 2GB for FreeBSD ZFS.


Asus M3N78-VM Core voltage not undervoltable but otherwise :)
Checked MSI - No ECC support on MATX boards.
Abit A-N78HD - Core Voltage 1.35v - 1.725v.
Biostar TA785GE & GF8200C - ECC DIMM is not supported

Anyone know of a motherboard that would fit the requirements?

Thanks in advance.

darkb
Posts: 46
Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:07 pm
Location: Australia

Post by darkb » Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:53 am

I'm using the ASRock A780GM-LE/128M in my own server. It has 6 sata ports, low power consumption with my sempron 140, and supports undervolting down to 0.8v. Only has two ram slots though, and I have no idea about ecc support. This board has been rock solid so far for the last 4-5 months. CnQ works fine, I'm running ubuntu 9.10 on it without issues (I also use it for general web browsing and music etc, saves powering up my gaming box)

Cost me less than $150 AUD for the motherboard and cpu, including postage. Also it has none of the flimsyness of the pcb or IO ports like I've heard of on other cheap boards.

HFat
Posts: 1753
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Location: Switzerland

Post by HFat » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:00 am

I'd also be interested in any answers you get. I don't need so many SATA ports or RAM slots and I'll likely be running Linux on it but otherwise my wishlist looks much like yours.

Did you choose BSD because ZFS on Linux still ain't ready yet? My misgiving about ZFS is that is seems brittle on less-than-ideal hardware and that I'm not sure which (if any) commodity hard-drives lie about cash flushes. It seems some of the most well-regarded SSDs lie routinely.

The Biostar A760G seems popular around here. I don't know if it's got all the features you want but its measured power consumption is low and that's what we're after. The thing is, it looks like it's not available anymore around here. Plus a newer board with DDR3 support would be nice (as long as it doesn't increase the power consumption too much).
Last edited by HFat on Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

mentawl
Posts: 285
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 10:29 pm
Location: Glasgow, UK

Post by mentawl » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:06 am

Had a look, but I just don't think you're gonna find a motherboard that fits all those requirements. The most challenging being MATX + ECC + Undervoltable all at the same time. ECC is used to promote data integrity and stability, while undervolting has the potential to harm that integrity, so I doubt you'd see both on the same motherboard.

If you're set on needing ECC, I would consider something like a Supermicro, Intel or Tyan server board paired with a 35 watt single core Conroe CPU or something.
i5 2500k @ 4.5ghz | Asus P8Z68-V | PNY GTX780 | 32gb DDR3 | SSD & HDD| Antec Solo 2
i5 4670k @ 4.3ghz | Asus Z87I-Pro | MSI GTX670 | 8gb DDR3 | SSD & HDD | Cubitek Mini Cube

HFat
Posts: 1753
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Location: Switzerland

Post by HFat » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:13 am

mentawl wrote:If you're set on needing ECC, I would consider something like a Supermicro, Intel or Tyan server board paired with a 35 watt single core Conroe CPU or something.
Wouldn't that consume more power at idle compared to a low-power board and a 240e or some such?

matt_garman
*Lifetime Patron*
Posts: 541
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2004 11:35 am
Location: Chicago, Ill., USA
Contact:

Re: Searching for mATX Low Power Server Motherboard

Post by matt_garman » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:50 am

embeddedbob wrote: * mATX.
* 6 SATA (or 5 int SATA + 1 ext SATA).
* 4 memory slots so that 4x2GB is possible.
* Supports ECC detection and correction as ill be running 3x1.5TB disk in raidz (ZFS).
* BIOS undervoltable board (min 0.8v). As ill be running FreeBSD I havent found any undervoltable software.
* Some form of processor throttling, will be on 24/7. i.e. CnQ?
* Compatible with FreeBSD (support is excellant these days so not really a concern really).
The Biostar A760G fits all these requirements except the 4 memory slots. Although, Biostar also makes the TA760G, which does have four memory slots.

Note that if you email Biostar and ask about ECC support, they'll deny it. But there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the fact that it does support it.
HFat wrote:
mentawl wrote:If you're set on needing ECC, I would consider something like a Supermicro, Intel or Tyan server board paired with a 35 watt single core Conroe CPU or something.
Wouldn't that consume more power at idle compared to a low-power board and a 240e or some such?
Depends on the approach you take. With socket 755, there are only a few single-CPU chipsets that support ECC: 3210, X38 and X48. None of these are particularly low-powered, so even with the least-power CPU, you won't beat the Biostar A760G on power consumption (or on price for that matter).

Another option is to go socket 1156. But as far as I can tell, with the new Intel processors (socket 1156 and 1366), it looks like you have to buy from the Xeon line to get ECC support. (I.e., they moved the memory controller off the northbridge and onto the CPU itself. So ECC support is now a CPU feature, like with AMD chips.)

If you're willing to spend the money, you could buy an Intel Xeon L3426 and a motherboard with a 3420 chipset. I haven't done this, but I talked about it in this thread.

Good luck!

embeddedbob
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:08 am
Location: UK

Post by embeddedbob » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:58 am

darkb wrote:I'm using the ASRock A780GM-LE/128M in my own server. It has 6 sata ports, low power consumption with my sempron 140, and supports undervolting down to 0.8v. Only has two ram slots though, and I have no idea about ecc support. This board has been rock solid so far for the last 4-5 months. CnQ works fine, I'm running ubuntu 9.10 on it without issues (I also use it for general web browsing and music etc, saves powering up my gaming box)
No ECC :(
HFat wrote:I'd also be interested in any answers you get. I don't need so many SATA ports or RAM slots and I'll likely be running Linux on it but otherwise my wishlist looks much like yours.

Did you choose BSD because ZFS on Linux still ain't ready yet? My misgiving about ZFS is that is seems brittle on less-than-ideal hardware and that I'm not sure which (if any) commodity hard-drives lie about cash flushes. It seems some of the most well-regarded SSDs lie routinely.

The Biostar A760G seems popular around here. I don't know if it's got all the features you want but its measured power consumption is low and that's what we're after. The thing is, it looks like it's not available anymore around here. Plus a newer board with DDR3 support would be nice (as long as it doesn't increase the power consumption too much).
I dont wish to start a BSD vs Linux war but prefer FreeBSD and have used it for many years. Now that ZFS has received good use, i thought id give it a go :) I run Ubuntu as a desktop but as a server I just dont get on with it (or other Linux distros Ive tried).
mentawl wrote:Had a look, but I just don't think you're gonna find a motherboard that fits all those requirements. The most challenging being MATX + ECC + Undervoltable all at the same time. ECC is used to promote data integrity and stability, while undervolting has the potential to harm that integrity, so I doubt you'd see both on the same motherboard.

If you're set on needing ECC, I would consider something like a Supermicro, Intel or Tyan server board paired with a 35 watt single core Conroe CPU or something.
A good point and youre correct but there should be a point where its stable and using less power than standard, although this might require some analysis.

Do you think I would be better just going for the Asus and the lowest power AMD. Its a shame I cant try before I buy...

Supermicro, Intel or Tyan - They all seem very expensive, not wanting to sound like Im in the cake shop eating everything in sight :D

Ill have to investigate FreeBSD and cool n quiet (not sure if intel have an equivalent). I presume this only throttles to the lowest Vcore setting.

The power consumption shouldnt be too bad :?, as Im using an SSD, when idle ill get the disks to spin down.

HFat
Posts: 1753
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Location: Switzerland

Re: Searching for mATX Low Power Server Motherboard

Post by HFat » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:25 am

matt_garman wrote:Although, Biostar also makes the TA760G, which does have four memory slots.
This one seems available locally. Thanks Matt!
I might go with that one if no one comes up with a better suggestion.
embeddedbob wrote:I dont wish to start a BSD vs Linux war
Of course not. I was trying to brainstorm server OS advantages while all my options are open. Once I finish installing the server, I won't be touching the OS for years no matter what.

mentawl
Posts: 285
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 10:29 pm
Location: Glasgow, UK

Post by mentawl » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:38 am

HFat wrote:
mentawl wrote:If you're set on needing ECC, I would consider something like a Supermicro, Intel or Tyan server board paired with a 35 watt single core Conroe CPU or something.
Wouldn't that consume more power at idle compared to a low-power board and a 240e or some such?
Yeah, but you're ignoring the "If you're set on needing ECC" part.

The Tyan/Intel/Supermicro server boards are very expensive because they're of server quality - personally (speaking only for myself), I don't see the point in putting expensive ECC RAM into a cheap-as-chips motherboard, it seems kinda backwards. After all, any machine (PC or bulldozer) is only as strong as its weakest part, and you can't expect a cheap motherboard to have the same kinda quality components or design thought put into it as a server grade piece.
i5 2500k @ 4.5ghz | Asus P8Z68-V | PNY GTX780 | 32gb DDR3 | SSD & HDD| Antec Solo 2
i5 4670k @ 4.3ghz | Asus Z87I-Pro | MSI GTX670 | 8gb DDR3 | SSD & HDD | Cubitek Mini Cube

embeddedbob
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:08 am
Location: UK

Post by embeddedbob » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:13 am

mentawl wrote:
HFat wrote:
mentawl wrote:If you're set on needing ECC, I would consider something like a Supermicro, Intel or Tyan server board paired with a 35 watt single core Conroe CPU or something.
Wouldn't that consume more power at idle compared to a low-power board and a 240e or some such?
Yeah, but you're ignoring the "If you're set on needing ECC" part.

The Tyan/Intel/Supermicro server boards are very expensive because they're of server quality - personally (speaking only for myself), I don't see the point in putting expensive ECC RAM into a cheap-as-chips motherboard, it seems kinda backwards. After all, any machine (PC or bulldozer) is only as strong as its weakest part, and you can't expect a cheap motherboard to have the same kinda quality components or design thought put into it as a server grade piece.
I agree to a certain point, but, what is quality? Regulator outputs and signals designed to a close tolerance over a wider temperature? Id be interested to know (as an electronics engineer). If ECC is enabled it will check for errors and report any. The design of the board should not cause issue with this basic functionality, especially if its in the spec.
HFat wrote:
matt_garman wrote:Although, Biostar also makes the TA760G, which does have four memory slots.
This one seems available locally. Thanks Matt!
I might go with that one if no one comes up with a better suggestion.
embeddedbob wrote:I dont wish to start a BSD vs Linux war
Of course not. I was trying to brainstorm server OS advantages while all my options are open. Once I finish installing the server, I won't be touching the OS for years no matter what.
I try and stay away from flame wars and its ignited many :)

Anyway, I prefer BSD becuase its always been 100% stable with me. My router was left for 2 1/2 years without being touched! The install and management process I always find logical, well tested (if you go with the -STABLE). The package management, Ports, is a huge + for me. Its a fantastically well organized way of keeping the system up2date. Other little things like POSIX compliant and its free licence. Its primary purpose is a server, and it does it well. The fact that it has ZFS thats maturing well is a bonus.

Obviously this is more my opinion than any factual evidence of it being better...

psiu
Posts: 1201
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:53 pm
Location: Plymouth, MI
Contact:

Post by psiu » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:19 am

I have found that in regards to the Open Source Operating Systems (OSOS?) that a big factor in dealing with them is the individuals familiarity with each specific one and their ability to understand their particular quirks and way of going about things.

Also, was about to mention the Biostar board but Matt got to it.
R.I.P. Felger Carbon & cpemma

HFat
Posts: 1753
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Location: Switzerland

Post by HFat » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:29 am

mentawl wrote:Yeah, but you're ignoring the "If you're set on needing ECC" part.
There's plenty of cheap AM2/2+/3 boards which officially support ECC (see Asus's catalog) if you think Biostar's unofficial support is too dicey. What bothers me is that I don't know how much power they'd burn at idle.
mentawl wrote:you can't expect a cheap motherboard to have the same kinda quality components or design thought put into it as a server grade piece.
I'd be interested in any data that shows the superiority of the "server grade" gear you're talking about. Subjective opinions about quality are less interesting to me, especially if they're based on price. I'm not particularly skeptical about the general quality of most expensive boards but how do I figure if they're worth the premium for my application without objective information?

speedboxx
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:13 am
Location: Canada

Post by speedboxx » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:40 am

Two boards that meet the low power and 6 SATA requirements would be the popular Biostar A760G (hard to find this one) and the Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2 (no ECC). Both are low cost.

Is ECC even necessary for home server use, or is it just snake oil? I havent found any sort of documented evidence or test that suggests it is crucial. Also, does undervolting/underclocking really reduce stability? I would have thought that underclocking makes things more stable, which is the reason I run my DDR2 667mhz ram at 400mhz (and also to save power).

HFat
Posts: 1753
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Location: Switzerland

Post by HFat » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:21 am

speedboxx wrote:Is ECC even necessary for home server use, or is it just snake oil?
What does "necessary" and "home server" even mean?
The problem is real. See Schroeder et al., 2009 that's been making the rounds for instance.
It may also been crucial depending on your application. Have you ever had a system that writes stuff all over your drive? It happened to me once on a personal system in the lead up to a system crash and I'm quite concerned now. The file system was badly corrupted as were a number of random files so it was obvious that I had to restore from backups but what if it's more subtle next time? Am I going to compare every file to a backup? There would be plenty of legitimate changes to screen. You're right: if you're going to be the only user of the server, the risk is acceptable and it wouldn't be too onerous to detect and fix any such issue.
Now, is any particular implementation going to help? We can't know for sure without testing and I don't know whether anyone actually tested that aspect of the Biostar boards we're talking about.
speedboxx wrote:Also, does undervolting/underclocking really reduce stability? I would have thought that underclocking makes things more stable
In some cases, yes and yes. Undervolting is definitely dangerous and underclocking can help. But in any particular case? I don't know and I think you'd have to test it extensively if you really want to know.

embeddedbob
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:08 am
Location: UK

Post by embeddedbob » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:01 am

Well ECC depends on your requirements. If you have a buisness critical system then data integrity is very important then any process/technology that decreases the probability of an error occurring is important. Most file systems will not alert you to data corruption so you dont know until somethings not good and you run diagnostics, by then its too late, you may have even rolled over your backup. There are no magic bullets, just technologies that continue to add reliability.

For me the reason is Im creating a 3TB raidz. ZFS doesnt require ECC but I know that AMD processors have it built it, its just if the motherboard supports it. Basically, if I can get a motherboard tha meets my requirements, great more reliability for hopefully not much more £ (the ram is +£15 per 4GB), if not, ill have to slacken off the requirements :)

I orignally purchased a ATOM ITX 330 which would probably 'do' but I want a system thats more dynamic. I ran many benchmarks across my machines (atom, atom 2 core, VIA, Intel Core Duo, Quad Core and AMD64 754) and want a system that when required can process/service what I need, and when idle basically sets the disks to sleep and consumes the minimum amount of power.

Oh, you can indeed make a system unstable by undervolting it. Theres millions of transistors to feed :)

If people are interested when I buy and build my new server ill post up what i used and how I configured it...

Jay_S
*Lifetime Patron*
Posts: 713
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Milwaukee, WI

Post by Jay_S » Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:57 pm

speedboxx wrote:Is ECC even necessary for home server use, or is it just snake oil? I havent found any sort of documented evidence or test that suggests it is crucial.
"DRAM Errors in the Wild: A Large-Scale Field Study"
Credit to AlpineCarver who posted about the study here, the 1st place I heard about it.
it's the only jib I got, baby

kaotikfunk
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon May 05, 2008 8:55 am
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by kaotikfunk » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:39 pm

Be sure to check this thread - there's discussions of boards supporting ECC & undervolting here as well:
viewtopic.php?t=54409
Current build: Bitfenix Prodigy, Intel DH77DF, Core i5 3550, Antec Kuhler H2O 620, 2x8G Corsair XMS3, Samsung 830 & 840 SSDs, MSI GF750 Ti TwinFrozr, Nexus Value 430 power
Previous build: Q8400 passive with Xigmatek HDT-S1283, 8g Mushkin DDR2-800 5-4-4-12 @ 1.8v, Intel DG33BU, Sapphire HD4670 Ultimate passive, Antec NSK3480, Nexus Value 430, 1 Scythe PWM 120mm rear fan

QuietOC
Posts: 1407
Joined: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:08 pm
Location: Michigan
Contact:

Post by QuietOC » Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:26 am

Have you considered building a file server out of CULV laptop?

embeddedbob
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:08 am
Location: UK

Post by embeddedbob » Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:14 am

Not heard of that offering from Intel before. As its soldered directly to the board id have to use the whole board. Then there's the awkwardness with the interfaces. TBH I just want something to slot into my 2U rackmount case.

I found that FreeBSD can support frequenncy and voltage manipulation:
http://configure.sh/FreeBSD/cpufreq.html
http://forums.freebsd.org/showthread.php?t=172

Im not entirely sure on the mechanisms that make this happen and if they are limited by BIOS options. Need to read up on it a little more.

Post Reply