Supermicro X9SRW-F Ivy Bridge EP compatibility comparison (#P33)

Some canned content for today – back when making the Supermicro 2011 board fit my needs (#P23,#P24), I stumbled upon the Ivy Bridge thing. Technically, the two rack servers that I got should both be compatible with the E5-2600 series (Sandy Bridge EP), as well as E5-2600v2 series (Ivy Bridge EP). The product website states that “BIOS version 3.0 or above is required” for this to work, and both boards run the most recent version (not that there’s so many versions to choose from). Both had a E5-2630L installed, so SB-EP. For mine, I also bought a E5-2630v2 (IB-EP) for cheap, which would have been a decent upgrade from 2.0/2.5 GHz to 2.6/3.1 GHz, both hexacores, at minimal additional TDP due to the 32nm to 22nm shrink and other optimizations.

Well, it didn’t work. Doesn’t boot up, red info LED blinking. While the CPU wasn’t packaged very well, there’s a catch: It did work in the other board, which according to the serial number was even older.

So I checked the online resources. FAQ 17723 is an identical case that did not have Ivy compatibility despite BIOS 3.0 and board revision 1.01A

It may be because you are using an older motherboard.

Please contact Technical Support at support + well known symbol + supermicro.com to determine whether the board has the required ECO to support Ivy Bridge V2 processor.

You might need to RMA board if warranty still applies.

So those fuckers added Ivy compatibility during the Rev 1.01A run?

There’s also FAQ 28967 with the same issue, this time they said:

X9SRW-F rev 1.01A needs hardware modification to be able to utilize Ivy Bridge CPUs.

Please contact the RMA department.

Aha.

Well, I opened a ticket myself. Since the OLDER board is compatible, both were bought for the same task by the same guys and both boards were used with v1 processors, I highly doubt that one of them was sent in for upgrades.

These boards require a hardware rework, which we did for free while the boards were in warranty.
Unfortunately i have no way of checking whether these boards were ever shipped back to verify whether this was done. If you are the original owner then please check your records, or otherwise i could only recommend contacting the previous owner.

If you already have the CPUs then you can simply try, it would not cause any defects to either board or CPU.

Well, that’s what I knew before opening the ticket, but it clarifies that the test is non-destructive. It’s hard to believe Supermicro does not have a database on which boards have been reworked or were in for other RMA issues.
Digging deeper:

All X9 boards are EOL and we will no longer update them. I am not at liberty to provide info on the rework, and due to the way this was handled it’s practically impossible to see whether a board was updated. The only thing i can recommend is to check the serial number, we indicate the production date in the serial number. The update came in March 2013, anything produced from April would have the change from the factory.

Your serial, ZM26S34989 [mine, not working], was produced in June 2012. See the 2 or 3 digits between the first 2 letters and the S. If there are 2 then the first one is for the year, 2 would be 2012. If there are 3 then the first 2 are for the year. The last one before the S is the month, which goes from 1-9 and then A, B, C.
A serial like ZM34S*** or ZM134S*** would definitely have the update.

But the ZM24P30128, according to that info made 2 months earlier, does boot. That simply does not add up.

We didn’t reach a conclusion on this, and since they’re out of warranty, they’re also out of free IB hardware upgrades, even though that secret sauce is so top secret that nobody will talk about this, nobody will sell it to me, and nobody has any documents about it. That is, given the website advertises v2 compatibility, frankly horse shit for any buyer of used hardware.

Shortly after that I needed to give the second board away, and I gave away the original one we agreed on, keeping the non-compatible unit for myself.

But I took pictures. And after learning quite a bit about photography in general and the limits of my Sony RX100M2, I think this is pretty close to what I can do with it. I’m not exactly thinking about an upgrade, but knowing your hardware limits is a valuable thing, even if your skill level doesn’t quite reach there yet.

Click here for a massive 18MP GIF image that alternates the two boards (front) for easy comparison…

I can’t spot a significant change except for the different choke at the center of the board – but that looks factory to me. Those chokes, especially when connected to a large layer, are notoriously hard to solder on these 8, 10, 12 layer boards.

The compatible board has a 300nH Vitec branded PR63N-301 choke here like for all of the CPU phases, and mine runs a generic 1R0 (1µH?) one. That change on a single voltage rail of the chipset however should not make or break Ivy compatibility…I suppose.
All of the other stuff is for funsies, e.g. crystals that sit the other way round or caps that bend in different directions. Also, the CPU heat sink was dented when handling ;)
I cannot spot anything that would have been modified by a human being – but I didn’t take off the chipset heat sink that sometimes is glued. So given the back of the board (only a 16 MP GIF here… – the more recent Sandy shot is much better due to upgraded LEDs and power supply of my lightbox) does not have any changes as well and the HannStar board label indicates this is the very same layout, I need to assume that they exchanged a major chip, e.g. the C602 chipset itself. Which is nice if that was done free of charge!


This link provides an interesting read on Sandy/Ivy compatibility on some Lenovo board, but the Intel C602 product page only mentions Intel ME firmware 7.1.20 and no version 8.

Well, if it’s bound to some Intel ME crap that cannot be handled by a simple BIOS chip reprogramming, I’m probably out of luck here. I’d certainly like to use Ivy processors but I’ve sniped an 2670(v1) on eBay as well, so I’m also at 2.6 GHz base and even 3.3 GHz turbo clock, with the added benefit of an octacore (yet higher TDP – actually too high for 100% static load on my very reduced fan setup). Still, hacking this bad boy myself would be a nice touch.

Anyone with Intel ME and Supermicro expertise here? Hit me up!

Original pics for those that want to search for differences themselves:

SB-EP/IB-EP compatible:

Only SB-EP compatible:


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