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Messages - pocock

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General OpenPOWER Discussion / next generation Blackbird ideas
« on: May 08, 2020, 06:04:11 pm »
I had a look over the various specs and blogs that people wrote about experiences with Blackbird and Talos II boards.

Here are some observations, maybe a wish list for future board designs:

Blackbird only supports 2 DIMMs / 2 memory channels, but for the price of these boards and CPUs I feel that it is very compelling to have 4 channels, as in the Talos II Lite, which is only a little bit more expensive than Blackbird anyway.

With only two PCIe slots on the Blackbird and Talos II Lite and no support for PCIe bifurcation, it is difficult for people to do NVMe RAID.  It would be really useful to have a couple of M.2 slots on the board so that people can have up to two NVMe SSDs and still keep the PCIe slots free.

4K monitors are much more common today than they were when POWER9 was launched.  It would be nice to have basic 2D support for a 4K display on the built-in HDMI port.  From practical experience running Debian and GNOME, I found that small 4K graphics cards, like the NVIDIA K420 with 2GB were unstable but cards with 4GB or more have been trouble-free for a development desktop.

On size, it could be bigger than Blackboard but it really needs to be smaller than Talos II (Lite) to open up a wider choice of cases.

A board with all of the above would probably be somewhere between Blackbird and Talos II Lite.

General CPU Discussion / POWER9 water cooling kit
« on: May 08, 2020, 03:06:30 am »

This article has a photo of a POWER9 with a water cooling kit

Water cooling could be a useful solution for people who are trying to minimize noise levels.

It can also be useful for moving heat further away from the place where equipment is used, if sufficient pipework can be installed.

General Discussion / Fractal Design cases
« on: May 07, 2020, 06:12:53 pm »

Here is a photo of another board in this particular case, does it appear suitable for Talos II?

More about the case:

Some of their cases also appear suitable for Blackbird.

Searching their support page produces some measurements and screenshots for SSI and E-ATX:

For example, this appears to rule out their R6 E-ATX case for Talos II:

GPU Compute / Accelerators / the microcode question
« on: May 07, 2020, 05:18:02 pm »
Raptor's workstations come with the AMD WX7100 GPU by default

While AMD is officially engaged in the production of the free/open source amdgpu driver, the AMD cards still require some microcode / blobs.

From the perspective of Talos II buyers/users, can anybody make suggestions about the best links/documents for helping decide upon the graphics and GPU strategy?

To put that another way: given that Talos II has VGA and the Blackbird's built-in HDMI can only do Full HD (1080p), if somebody wants to have one or more 4K displays and they don't need 3D, what are the recommended options without any microcode?

General Discussion / heat and noise / remote KVM access
« on: May 07, 2020, 03:36:00 pm »
For many European users in older buildings, there is no air conditioning.  Heat and noise from workstations can be a drain on productivity.

Can anybody comment on solutions for operating HDMI, keyboard and mouse over non-trivial distances, e.g. when hiding the workstation in another room with the door closed or even confining it to a basement or in-building data center?

For most Talos II and Blackbird users, I feel that there will be a particular interest in solutions to this problem that are secure and not dependent on proprietary technologies.


The Blackbird and Lite motherboard only have 2 PCIe slots and the full motherboard only supports 2 out of 5 slots if a single CPU is fitted.

Furthermore, I read that PCIe bifurcation is not supported on the Blackbird and Lite, so they can't have multiple NVMe SSDs on a single PCIe card.

Does Thunderbolt 3 provide an answer to this problem?

I searched for Thunderbolt in the forum and wiki and couldn't find anything about it.

For example, Thunderbolt 3 can connect multiple SSDs, 4k displays and 10GbE NICs, reducing the number of things that have to go in the two PCIe slots.

Here are a couple of the Thunderbolt 3 cards I found at a local supplier:

Some of the issues that come to mind:

- does the PCI card work at all in non-x86 boards?

- can it boot from an NVMe SSD on Thunderbolt 3?

- does the Linux kernel compiled for ppc64 support Thunderbolt 3 boards like this?

Has anybody tried this already or is anybody in a position to try one of these cards?

One downside of using Thunderbolt 3 is the security risk.  Having storage outside the main PC case is not always a good idea.  Attackers with physical access to a Thunderbolt port may also be able to use the port to scrape the contents of RAM

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