Questions about BMCs and Baseboards

yongihammer

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Dec 28, 2018
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Hey folks,

Total beginner / noob here and have a few really basic questions:

1) is a baseboard the same as a motherboard? I read somewhere that servers now come with 4 baseboards per server (up from 2 back in 2014), and this might increase further as data traffic continues to grow - anyone seeing evidence of this? how many more baseboards can a server fit?

2) been reading about baseboard management controllers - is there any differentiation between top BMC vendor Aspeed and other BMC vendors? Pros and cons?

Thanks in advance!
 

i386

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Mar 18, 2016
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is a baseboard the same as a motherboard?
I think it depends on the context, but usually yes.
I read somewhere that servers now come with 4 baseboards per server (up from 2 back in 2014), and this might increase further as data traffic continues to grow - anyone seeing evidence of this?
I'm not sure how one system should have 4 mainboards, but why not :D
You probably read about mullti node system like this one:

(SuperMicro 6026TT-BTRF)

Each node has it's own mainboard, cpu, ram etc.
is there any differentiation between top BMC vendor Aspeed and other BMC vendors?
Not really, bmc chips are small systems with their own os (linux kernel). Vendors like supermicro, dell can get the sdks from the bmc manufacturer and develop their own bmc firmware with the features they want/need.
 
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yongihammer

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Dec 28, 2018
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Thank you, your answers are super helpful!

Anyway, just a follow-up - the multinode system pic above - is that a standard nowadays or is that something that's more for specialty / niche applications? Just wondering when I read about "worldwide server shipments" from Gartner whether the standard server now looks more like the multinode or if it's still just a box and a motherboard.
 

i386

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is that a standard nowadays or is that something that's more for specialty / niche applications?
I think it dependes on which market you look. SMB will probably use 1 node per 1 u where larger enterprises and hyperscalers go for higher density.

If you want to read more about high density check the main site forum for posts about the Open Compute Project ("OCP") and HPE moonshot.
 
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yongihammer

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Dec 28, 2018
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I think it dependes on which market you look. SMB will probably use 1 node per 1 u where larger enterprises and hyperscalers go for higher density.

If you want to read more about high density check the main site forum for posts about the Open Compute Project ("OCP") and HPE moonshot.


Thanks so much again! One more question if you don't mind - is there any issue with folks who end up with different BMCs across all their servers, or is it preferable to stick with the same vendor for the whole server fleet if possible? And when you upgrade or add upgraded servers, are you likely to also stick with the same BMC vendor too (so one less extra vendor to have to coordinate)?
 

i386

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I'm not sure how to answer this. Bmcs are part of a system and you have to deal with the system vendor about support and so on.
 
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TangoWhiskey9

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BMCs add features with new generations from a vendor too. So you're likely to have many generations.

You're using someone's management plane
 

RageBone

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Multiple different BMCs itself aren't a problem.

Different Board / server OEMs can be a problem, since functionality and implementation of the bmc might differ between the OEMs.

To clarify, you don't have to deal with the BMC vendor at all, that is handled by the board / server OEM for you, since those role their own flavor of BMC / ipmi firmware anyway.

Since iPMi is technically a standard, everything will for the most part work together. But if there are differences or bugs or missing features specifically in one OEMs stuff, you have to obviously deal with that separately.

A homogenic environment has obvious up and downsides.

To repeat, it is about the Firmware of the BMC, not the BMC itself.

A BMC simplified, is just a low power ARM CPU with some custom stuff for system management and a nic.

Nuvoton has some bmcs that made it into Supermicro boards up until about 2013 with the X9 c60? sandy and ivy bridge gen.
After that it's aspeed ast 2300 2400 2500 all the way for at least sm. Asus and gigabyte.
Higher number means newer.
2300, 2400 c612 and 2500 on c62?

But again, firmware, not BMC.
For sm. it was basically the same for all boards until they switched over to "REDFISH" which they only rolled out for the aspeeds.

That is basically everything I can say about that from my hobbyist side.


If I think about the DC, you probably stick with one OEM anyway, for many reasons. Contracts, deals, homogeneity, bios and firmware updates, and spare parts, warranty and service provider technicalities. Such stuff, I guess which BMC they used is a nice to know but nothing more.
 
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