Building a hardware test station around AMD EPYC

Building a couple of test stations for use in a hardware lab. As we are using Xilinx VCU118 FPGA development boards (with 16x PCIe lanes), with the usual desktop CPUs are going to run out of PCIe lanes pretty fast. (Quite possible future rigs will need more than one of these cards.)

Kind of dithered between EPYC and Threadripper.

Opted for:

  • 8-core EPYC (7232P so Zen 2) as this build not at all compute-intense
  • Supermicro H12SSL-NT motherboard with a single 8GB stick of Supermicro RAM
  • Generic/available basic graphics card (RX550)
  • Generic/modular power supply (EVGA 850-watt)
  • Generic 1TB M.2 SSD (Samsung 980)
  • PCIe riser cable(s)
  • Noctua NH-12S CPU cooler
  • Thermaltake Core P3 (open) case

The last is a bit tricky. Wanted a somewhat-open case so the hardware folk can reach inside. Wanted to minimize the footprint on the test bench, so went with the vertical case. The VCU118 is a tall card, plus an XMC daughter-card adds several inches … so really quite tall. Wanted to use a PCIe riser cable to mount the VCU118+daughtercard vertically (and fit inside the case).

RIght. Maybe you will spot what I missed. Started assembling, then realized there was no way the Noctua was going to fit. Ordered a Thermaltake ARGB 240 CPU cooler (liquid so low-profile over the CPU).

Waiting on the cooler, so not yet powered on. Might work…

(Also, can see an EVGA wireless network from my desk at work - so they must have a building nearby. Not that this is relevant in any way. :slight_smile: )

In some ways, this is a ridiculous build. One stick of RAM? The lowest-end EPYC? A PCIe card that is nearly as big as the (ATX-size) motherboard? But this does make sense, at least in my mind.

Just watched Wendell’s recent video on EPYC server versus workstation motherboards. Timely.

The workstation motherboard might have been a better choice, but the close-spaced PCIe slots would not fit as many of these wide boards. (Though not an issue for this build - if the PCIe risers work.) So favored the Supermicro board with the wider-spaced slots.

Will see shortly if this build makes sense. Then put together the second rig. Or not. :slight_smile:

[Later:] The Thermaltake cooler does not come with a bracket for SP3 / TR4 / sTRX4. Seems only Asetek (Fractal Design) sells an appropriate bracket.

Apparently AMD includes the bracket with Threadripper, and the CPU cooler makers assume you already have a bracket. If you do not have a bracket, you need the above link.

My EPYC chips came in a tray, so no brackets…

Ordered a Fractal Design cooler, and the needed bracket.

1 Like

Interested in this, any updates? Did it work out? :slight_smile:

Only consideration/concern I would have is that “server” boards often take an age to POST, so if it needs to be power-cycled often that could get annoying fast.

I’m a fan of EPYC but something like a Xeon W-2123 on a workstation board is a cheap way to get a decent number of PCIe lanes, too (bifurcation support is worse, though).