Supermicro X9DRL-EF Motherboard
By Gabriel Torres on May 2, 2013
Supermicro produces products for servers, and the X9DRL-EF is a dual socket LGA2011 motherboard for Xeon E5-2600 series processors with a TDP of up to 130 W, based on the Intel C602J chipset. One of the highlights of this motherboard is the use of the standard ATX form factor (12 x 10 inches or 304.8 x 254 mm), instead of using a server-specific form factor such as EE-ATX, E-ATX, or proprietary. Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
The company also offers another model based on the same printed circuit board, the X9DRL-7F. Both are identical, except that the X9DRL-7F has an LSISAS2208 hardware-based RAID chip, providing eight SAS-600 ports controlled by this chip.
You can see the Supermicro X9DRL-EF motherboard in Figure 1.
The Supermicro X9DRL-EF comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x8 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x8 slot (working at x4), and one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot.
Since servers don’t require high-end video cards, PCI Express x16 slots are not provided.
Each CPU controls one of the PCI Express 3.0 x8 slots. The third PCI Express x8 slot uses the 2.0 specification, works at x4 speed, and is controlled by the chipset. The PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot is also controlled by the chipset.
Intel socket LGA2011 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA2011 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz.
The Supermicro X9DRL-EF has four memory sockets for each CPU, for a total of eight memory sockets. Since LGA2011 CPUs support the quad-channel memory architecture, you must populate all memory sockets in order to achieve the best performance possible. Because of that, there is no point in having sockets with different colors, since all memory sockets must be used.
The maximum memory capacity will depend on the kind of memory modules you use. If you use regular memory modules, each socket supports modules of up to 8 GiB, for a total of 64 GiB. If, however, you use registered memory modules, the supported capacity is increased to 32 GiB per socket, for a total of 256 GiB.
The Intel C602J chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). As previously mentioned, Supermicro offers an upgraded version of this motherboard called X9DRL-7F with eight additional SAS-600 ports with hardware-based RAID.
The Intel C602J chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports, but does not come with USB 3.0 ports. The Supermicro X9DRL-EF offers seven USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on its rear panel, one soldered near the SATA ports (see Figure 5), and two through one header located on the motherboard.
Since the Supermicro X9DRL-7F is targeted to servers, it doesn’t come with on-board audio or FireWire ports.
The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Intel i210 chips (“6K467J01JW”). A third network connector is provided exclusively for the IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) function. This port is controlled by a Nuvoton WPCM450 chip, using a Realtek RTL8201F chip to make the interface with the physical layer. The IPMI connector is the one located on top of two USB 2.0 ports.
Server products don’t require a fancy video controller since most of the access to the server is done remotely through terminal software, such as SSH, after the server is built. The Supermicro X9DRL-7F has on-board video controlled by a Matrox G200eW chip, with a standard VGA output.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a serial port, the IPMI LAN port, four USB 2.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the VGA output.
As you could see in Figure 6, the Supermicro X9DRL-EF comes with a serial port on its rear panel. Another serial port is available through a header, and you will need an adapter that doesn’t come with the product in order to use it.
The portrayed motherboard also supports a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), which encrypts data that is handled by the server in order to increase security.
In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that are included with the Supermicro X9DRL-EF.
The Supermicro X9DRL-EF has a voltage regulator circuit for each CPU, each with five phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore) and one for the CPU VSA (a.k.a. system agent) voltage. Therefore, it uses a “5+1” configuration.
Each voltage regulator is controlled by a PX3897EDQG-R2-SM1380-A integrated circuit, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by a TDA21215 integrated circuit, which incorporates the three required transistors (“driver,” “low side,” and “high side”).
The Supermicro X9DRL-EF uses SMD tantalum capacitors (also known as high-conductive polymerized capacitors or simply hi-c) on its voltage regulator circuits, and solid capacitors on the remainder of the motherboard.
All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The main specifications for the Supermicro X9DRL-EF include:
The Supermicro X9DRL-EF is an interesting choice for building servers with two Xeon E5-2600 series processors. It brings all you need, such as two Gigabit Ethernet ports and support for up to 64 GiB (un-buffered) or 256 GiB (registered) of RAM, plus a network port for the IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) function. One of the highlights of this motherboard is the use of the standard ATX form factor, so you won’t need to worry about compatibility when picking a case. For those who need SAS-600 ports with hardware-based RAID, Supermicro offers an upgraded version of this motherboard, the X9DRL-7F.
The only drawback of this motherboard is its price, though it is in line with the market at which it is targeted.