This is mostly going to be a visual post. I will unbox my newest server, my first high powered ARM64 (aarch64) system. It's a Cavium/Marvell 56-core ThunderX2 put together by Gigabyte and sold by ThunderXForums. I have lots of experience with inexpensive ARM based single board computers. The PineBook Pro, all types of Raspberry Pi's (including the 400), Pine64, Rock64, Orange Pi, Banana Pi, and even the ASUS Tinker Board. Those are all fine low powered devices good for... well... tinkering. Sure maybe the PineBook Pro and the Raspberry Pi 400 are a bit above tinkering, but they are nowhere near as powerful as what I'm about to unbox.
We begin our journey by observing the massive brown rectangular box. It's a big box with something incredible waiting for us inside!
Upon closer inspection we find a fancy GIGABYTE logo printed on the side. It's a hint to the greatness that awaits us.
After using my trusty box cutting knife we open up the first flap, and what's this? Another box inside‽
Makes sense. You want to make sure the precious cargo inside is well protected during shipping. Lets go ahead and open that inner box up to reveal the first glimpse of the sever carefully wrapped in blue plastic and tucked under Styrofoam blocks.
I must confess, I got a little ahead of myself. When I took that picture I had already removed the box containing the rails kit.
Looks like it's a pretty generic kit. Hopefully these will not only be easy to install, but also easy to work with. I've dealt with some very unpleasant rack rails in my days, and it's not very fun. Luckily, most rails made in the last few years have gotten much better when it comes to usability.
Lets have a closer look at that label and then set these aside for later.
It's odd that only the vendor name is written in Taiwanese, I think it's "King Slide"? Rest of the label is in mostly in English. Also it's kinda weird that there are two types of part numbers, a vendor: P/N: 3A02-600DPZZ0BG and "GBT" P/N: 25HB2-3A0202-K0R. According to Google, the GBT part number is the one to go by as it brings up the most results.
We fast forward a little to the part where the server has been removed from it's box. I've sat it on top of the Styrofoam blocks I mentioned earlier. They really are perfect for the task of propping up the server while we adore it.
Installing Rails on the Server
Now back to the rack rails. The box is sealed with a few pieces of tape that are no match for my knife.
Opening the box reveals a fine set of not so exciting rails. It's a pretty normal kit.
The screws are minimal and the instructions appear to be written well enough. Although they are printed a little small.
I've scanned the instructions so you can view them.
Back to the server, here is a side shot of the machine with it's blue plastic wrap removed. The picture came out a little grainy due to low light.
As you can see I've already started to install the rails.
Installation of the rails it pretty straight forward. The instructions do a somewhat okay job of explaining what you need to do. It helps if you've had prior experience with installing rails (which I have).
The "inner rails" as the instructions call them, simply slide and snap on to the server. They are then held in place by two screws on each side. The sensation of having the rails 'snap' on is very pleasing.
Once installed the rails will hang over the back of the server to allow easy mounting. I've seen a variation of these type of rails before.
I can't say I'm too excited with these rails, especially on a server of this size. We'll see how it goes.
Here's a quick front shot of the server before we go and install the "outer rails" on the rack.
It seems my version of the R281-T91 came with the 12x 3.5 inch drive bays instead the usual 24x 2.5 inch bays.
What You Came Here For
Of course I'm going to look inside and show you!
The top cover is locked in place by a single screw. Removing it lets you hold down the tabs to slide off the cover, exposing the R281-T91 innards.
Go ahead, I'll give you a moment to enjoy yourself. I even gave you a slightly larger image.
Here we've uncovered the left CPU.
Look at all those memory slots, OMG.
Now the right one.
Beautiful? isn't it?
Hmm... what's that marking on the top left above the CPU? Is that... can it be... a motherboard model number?
Zooming in we can see that the Gigabyte R281-T91 is built using a Gigabyte MT91-FS4 motherboard. Neat. I'm sure that information might come in handy.
That was wonderful. Now lets get back to work.
Preparing the Rack
A server like this needs a proper home and I have just the spot for it. See that big empty space in the middle (above the empty tray)... that's where we are putting this beautiful thing.
I don't know why this picture came out so grainy, there is plenty of light in the server room. Also, isn't that a nice rack? One day I'll show you the other smaller pedestal rack that houses my BladeCenter S and PowerEdge 1850 (my first server ever).
Installing the outer rails was actually very easy. My rack uses square holes and the rails are pre-configured for that. The bag of screws contains the necessary components when round holes are needed. Both rails are symmetrical so it doesn't matter which one is left or right. The only thing to watch for is the front end of the rails.
Maybe there is hope for these rails!
The rails just 'snap' into place and are held by a locking screw. I'm really liking this 'snap' installation.
This was way easier than I expected it to be. Our rack is now ready to "accept" a new member of the family.
Why yes, that is a net5501, and yes it does run FreeBSD.
Racking the Gigabyte R281-T91
It's not too much of a heavy machine to carry around, but if you care for your new possession, two people should handle it.
As expected it just slides into the outer rails on the rack with little effort so long as you align it properly. I must say these rails have proven to be quite user friendly.
Looking good, fits right in.
The server easily slides in and out with little effort and is secured to the rack by two thumb screws. One on each side.
This rack's cable management is a little messy on the top. I'm still working on that rack and hope to have it cleaned up and properly cable managed (sometime) soon in the future. I'm getting to it, I promise.
Yes indeed that's a second Soekris (a net6501) on the top, my main router. Of course it runs FreeBSD.
We Aren't Done Yet
Check out part two of the series where I install some basic hardware, explore the BMC, and attempt to power-on the system. Keep a look out for part three where we install FreeBSD on a ThunderX2!