Custom M-ITX board



  • I know someone who is having a custom m-ITX board made. 200 copies of this board will be made in the first run. The board will be based on the new C206 chipset and will take any of the E12XX series Xeon CPU range as well i3, i5 and i7 procs.

    The E1220 Xeon is interesting….20w TDP. The i3 proc could be interesting to run a fw on as well.

    I need 20+ boards myself so have got involved in this custom board. I have asked for 4 x Intel 82574L Nics to satisfy my requirements and they have said this can be done.

    Is there anything else desirable to include on this board for pfsense use you can think of? The E12xx Xeons and the i3/5/7 have the encryption acceleration instruction set onboard so that's covered already. Anything else? I am wondering if a daughter board that takes 2x Fiber connections would be useful - any of you think that would be useful?

    In general would sort of features would make this board kick ass for a fw use?



  • The E1220 doesn't have an integrated GPU though.  So that board will either need to support booting without graphics or have some form of embedded VGA.  Or have bios redirected to serial.



  • Yes true.

    Something to think about adding to the wishlist. The manufacturer is currently doing a M-ITX based on the Q67 chipset. When that is done they can do the custom c206 board. They seem to be very obliging on what we can add.

    Good catch by Dream slacker…anymore suggestions ?



  • The AES-NI instructions are worthless on pfSense, at least in 1.2.3 and 2.0, as they are not supported until FreeBSD 8.2.

    EDIT:  Some additional notes:

    • There is little point in using the C206 chipset as your choice of CPU would be limited to those with built-in video.  You should really be using the C204 and an add-on video chip, Matrox, whatever.
    • The 82574L NICs you want are supported in pfSense but the integrated 82579 is not. Are you going to have it disabled?
    • Expansion options?  Most Mini-ITX boards have one slot.  I'd use an x8 PCI-e 2.0 if you can fit it.

  • Netgate Administrator

    I don't have on board VGA in my box and it's never been a problem.
    Why do you want video on a firewall?  :-\

    Steve



  • I second Steve's comments.  I would be asking for a dedicated console port or three or more serial ports.



  • @stephenw10:

    I don't have on board VGA in my box and it's never been a problem.
    Why do you want video on a firewall?  :-\

    Steve

    It's more of a matter of whether the board will boot without a vga adapter being detected.



  • If it's a Custom board using Intel chipsets ask that EFI be a requirement for what Intel used to call a "Pre Boot Environment." vs using the old BIOS chips that are legacy.  I know EFI does console redirection.



  • No real need for EFI though it's nice to have.  ;D

    They just need to ensure that the BIOS does not halt POST when there is no VGA adapter.

    I reckon the board will be a complete overkill for most firewall setups though.  And for those setups with throughput high enough to warrant such a setup (typically datacenters or intranet routing), space is probably the least of the worries.



  • Agree - complete overkill.

    However the board looks like being about $200 +CPU and RAM. If this does come to fruition i know what i'd rather have for the money - i3/Xeon compatible m-ITX with 4 x 82574L's onboard or an Atom D525 with 2 x 82574L's onboard for about the same sort of money - well not really - the Atom m-ITX costs about $220 with CPU so a bit of difference  - still i know what i would rather have.

    The board is currently spec'd with RS 232/422/485. I've asked to strip these off to make room for the Lan ports. Are serial ports REALLY needed these days Vs having the 4 82574L's? Could easily leave the serials on if required.

    EFI is a god one - i'll check.

    Will check on the BIOS issue regards not halting with no VGA adapter.

    As for video out , it already has HMDI 1.4, + asking for a DP and DVI

    The main idea here is to have one board that can do many specialist jobs. fw with i3. Mini server with Xeon  for running a few VM's(VT -d as well), a HTPC board (one of the guys involved is asking for Optical out for Audio).

    My interest is the fw aspect. I need a lot of boards to get out into the field for different duties plus i need to setup mail relay servers at many client sites - hence one board that can take different CPU's for different jobs and if we can bring them in at $200 what a bargain!. early days on pricing yet though and they do quote 90 days to manufacture.

    Not sure if we can pull it off but the manufacturer has agreed to some mods already - not sure how far we can press them, but we can try. I would have thought that for fw use not that many mods are required. Some good points raised already so far



  • forgot one thing - RAM - it takes ECC or non ECC. Thats different for a m-itx.

    Currently it takes up to 8GB Ram via 2 slots. I've asked for it to take 16GB RAM via its two slots - ie 8GB sticks. OK 8 GB sticks are expensive now but in the future i expect they will become reasonable and yes i know we don't need 16 (or even eight) Gigs RAM for a firewall but the idea behind this board is versatility - 16 GB RAM for a Xeon E1280  mini ITX anyone?

    Checkout the Travla T2240 and T2280 2U rack mount cases. 2 x M-ITX in one 2U enclosure. Perfect for carp. Or fw with i3 one side, mail server with Xeon the other side Or fw with i3 one side and Xeon with E1245 the other side for running a few VM's  - all in one 2U rack mount case with either 4 or 8 HDD caddies in the front panel…...... many possibilities here



  • @john:

    However the board looks like being about $200 +CPU and RAM. If this does come to fruition i know what i'd rather have for the money - i3/Xeon compatible m-ITX with 4 x 82574L's onboard or an Atom D525 with 2 x 82574L's onboard for about the same sort of money - well not really - the Atom m-ITX costs about $220 with CPU so a bit of difference  - still i know what i would rather have.

    That's dirt cheap for what we're looking at.

    @john:

    The board is currently spec'd with RS 232/422/485. I've asked to strip these off to make room for the Lan ports. Are serial ports REALLY needed these days Vs having the 4 82574L's? Could easily leave the serials on if required.

    At least 1 serial port is required.  This allows for embedded applications/ OS that don't use the VGA.  An extra header (RS232 only) on the board (for a total of 2) would be nice for those who want to add a LCD to the system but otherwise not required.

    @john:

    Will check on the BIOS issue regards not halting with no VGA adapter.

    As for video out , it already has HMDI 1.4, + asking for a DP and DVI

    I doubt DP is required.  A single DVI-I would actually suffice since it'd support analog VGA via common adapters.



  • When this board is available?
    And where this is going to be available?

    Sound's like a dream already



  • I'm less interested at this point.  I hate hardware that tries to do it all and that's what it sounds like this is turning out to be.  DVI, DP, optical audio out, none of that is needed for a firewall.  I'd want (4) Gig-E ports, VGA and/or Serial, and a USB port.



  • @jasonlitka:

    I'm less interested at this point.  I hate hardware that tries to do it all and that's what it sounds like this is turning out to be.  DVI, DP, optical audio out, none of that is needed for a firewall.  I'd want (4) Gig-E ports, VGA and/or Serial, and a USB port.

    DVI-I would be better than a VGA.  It will be one port supporting both DVI (if VGA gets phased out somehow) and VGA (via commonly available adapters).  PS/2 is probably a requirement as well (USB KVMs can be quite flaky when they're not self-powered and PS/2 KVMs are much cheaper).



  • I thought that if i get more than one board, so i could create htpc or small LAN-gaming pc.



  • KVM redirection via serial/lan would be nice, like IPMI… :)



  • The board has Intel Active Managment Technology (Intel® AMT 7.0) onboard. This is via the 82579 as jasonlikta points out. So need to think about this a bit because from what i have been able to find out the 82579 is needed for the AMT 7.0. Another issue is that you need a CPU with GPU onboard (ie E12x5 series CPU) to be able to access the AMT 7.0.

    Not sure how viable it is to do major rework on this board. Even if we did decide it was financially viable to do a respin of the board it will certainly extend the delivery time.

    So what may work is to have 5 LAN ports onboard - (issue there of course is there is only so much room on the m-ITX board) 1 x 82579 for AMT 7.0 use and 4 x 82574L for fw use. Need to find out way more about AMT 7.0 but i cant find much. Is this like IPMI? I believe it is part of the chipset?

    4x 82574L and some sort of IPMI like setup and access are essential to me - without those its a deal breaker.

    Has anyone got any link to AMT 7.0 features / details so we can check this out more fully. If not, i wonder if it is possible to get a BMC chip on the board and use openIPMI or something similar? That approach might be more flakey then anything. Probably best to continue down the AMT 7.0 road.

    And lets be clear - we are only going down this road after six months of checking out about every m-ITX board ever produced. Simply cant find one with all the features needed hence the custom route. Lucky i stumbled across someone who was thinking the same thing but way ahead of me on this and had already got the ball moving.

    One thing very clear though is that we have total freedom on PCIE slots and can have this arranged as we want - the consensus in the group so far is that 2 x 8x slots is ideal if the board ended up being D-ITX or 1 x 8x slot if it stays M-ITX.



  • @Metu69salemi:

    When this board is available?
    And where this is going to be available?

    Sound's like a dream already

    Its not available at this time. We are working with the manufacturer to see how many mods can be done without retooling their setup to make this board. As it stands it has been designed as a Xeon m-ITX with Intel C206 PCH chipset with Two 240pin DIMM sockets dual channel DDR3 SDRAM up to 8GB, Dual Display by VGA / DVI / HDMI, 6 x SATA ports (4 x SATA 3Gb 2 x SATA 6Gb), 4 x USB 2 and 4 x USB 2 headers.

    So in that configuration it IS going to happen. What we as a small group are trying to work on is having some changes to this board for our own respective needs - i want a fw board with 4 x 82574L's onboard because i cant find that config for love nor money anywhere on the planet. Another guy wants USB 3.0 and yet another wild idea that i don't think will see the light of day is 2 x SPF 8077's on board…..its only got m-itx real estate after all.

    At this stage its abit of a mish mash with ideas coming left right and center from the group - for my needs as a fw board i need to sort out what is REALLY needed to be a good fw board. As for what else gets on it i am not really fussed about - i only insist on the 82574L nics x 4 and some sort of IPMI or equivalent. 16GB of RAM would be nice because with a higher end Xeon it is suitable as a mini server for running a few VM's as the chipset and the CPU support VT-d. Nice to have one board that can do a few tasks if possible.

    There are two low power Sandy Bridge Xeons in the range so far. the E1220 and the E1260. Neither have a GPU onboard but thats how they get the power low. The E1220 is 20W TDP and dual core and the E1260 is 45W TDP and quad core. Then there is the i3 that is supposed to work on this board but not yet 100% confirmed.

    There is a long way to go on this. At this time casting around for ideas for the ideal fw board. Customization may or may not happen at this stage.



  • hmmm….... came across this regards the AMT 7.0 feature....

    "To support KVM there is an additional requirement of Intel Integrated Graphics (required because KVM reads the framebuffer memory directly). CPU's that support integrated graphics should work with KVM (I believe this would be the dual core variants of the i5 line, and some i7 processors on the mobile side). Additionally an OEM needs to support these features in thier BIOS and enabled them when they flash the system firmware. Some OEMs will disable the KVM features (or they will manufacture system with 3rd party graphics solutions). The best approach is to contact your PC vendor directly and verify they support the feature. "



  • Is there space to integrated graphic chip, if planned processors doesn't have that feature



  • We've hit a problem. The CPU cooler is so big relative to m-ITX real estate that it looks like the PCI-E slot will be useless because the fan will block that slot. If we lose the pcie slot does that make this board useless?

    Interested to hear some opinions on this. For me the pcie slot is not important but i can understand that to others it could be a deal breaker.

    Waiting for engineering drawings to check this aspect out.



  • If that board already includes 4 interfaces, it's not deal breaker to me..

    Is this board still going to fit 1U casing with that cooler?



  • @john:

    We've hit a problem. The CPU cooler is so big relative to m-ITX real estate that it looks like the PCI-E slot will be useless because the fan will block that slot. If we lose the pcie slot does that make this board useless?

    Interested to hear some opinions on this. For me the pcie slot is not important but i can understand that to others it could be a deal breaker.

    Waiting for engineering drawings to check this aspect out.

    I doubt that is possible if the board is properly designed.  There is a certain keep-out area (horizontal and vertical) for the socket that all manufacturers have to adhere to and so do heatsink manufacturers (vertical keepout beyond a boundary).

    When using the stock coolers (which are as small as they get), there definitely should not be any issues because they don't employ heatpipes to extend the fins beyond the horizontal keep-out area.



  • Most Mini-ITX cases require a riser so that the expansion board runs parallel to the motherboard.  Almost any board that uses a desktop CPU, even a low powered one, is going to need a heat sink so large that the expansion slot won't work.

    You could try and add it to the side of the board, like Soekris does with their products, but that would put you outside the Mini-ITX spec and then you'd need a custom case as well.

    I'd say just bag the expansion slot.



  • Hi guys as you can see i am brand new to this forum as i frequent another forum OCAU (not sure if your allowed to state other forums?? will edit if is a problem) however i am very interested in registering an interest in a board for evaluation proposes. im guessing you are talking about the portwells WADE-8011 board http://www.portwell.com/products/detail.asp?CUSTCHAR1=WADE-8011 as this is the one me and some fellow members on OCAU are trying to get, hec i might even be talking to the same people from ocau hahah??? but what i was thinking is if we can combine our efforts we have a better chance of getting a run of these boards made!!

    If you guys are interested in combining forces so that we can get this board into reality that would be truly great  and i totally agree 4x NIC would be great to have on the board

    i would like to recommend that if we went with 4 NIC ports that the 2x2port usbs be sacrificed so that the 4nics can be used.

    My preference for rear i/o would be audio stays the same, remove of rs232 ports to be replaced with NICs or USBs replaced as there a mid board headers, removal of HDMI port for display port. what do you guys think??

    please contact me via pm or post a reply to this post asap so i can talk to the other ocau members so we can work something out  ;D.

    thanks for your time

    Regards

    Robert



  • To me a serial and/or a remote KVM are necessary for life. Without its not complete…



  • Hi guys just wanting to know if any of you want the standard board as i am arranging a group buy here:

    http://forums.overclockers.com.au/showthread.php?t=970825

    obviously you cant post on there unless your a member however, if your interested in getting one of the boards post a comment stating your interest and the amount your after in this sense boards thread and ill add you to the list of group buy members.

    Cheers.



  • What kind of price are we looking at?



  • Im currently finding that out off the manufacturer but i would assume around $200-$250 mark, obviously once i know for sure i will post up the actual price.



  • Regarding the PCI riser and heatsink issue, how tall is the riser and how tall is the heatsink? I see some risers that push the card out almost flush with the motherboard itself which wouldn't work with ANY heatsink. I'm also seeing some that push the card up ~1.5 inches. I recently built some AMD Athlon II 250 systems for desktops at work and the stock HSF that came with the CPU is very short, possibly 1.5 inches or less. This CPU has a much higher TDP and temps aren't an issue, lower power CPUs should have no trouble with a HSF that size or smaller. Obviously if the board gets mounted in a 1U case you've only got 1.75 inches to work with which limits the choices of everything. Then again if it's a normal 19" rackmount case you could also easily have the card go the other way and sit to the side of the board and short of the HSF physically covering the slot you shouldn't have any issues.

    So on the board itself, here's what I think. The 4 onboard NICs are a VERY good idea. I haven't seen that in anything short of a standard ATX board. As stated serial ports would be good for console redirect, LCD options, UPS shut down, whatever. I doubt you need anything better than an RS-232 though. Some kind of onboard video would be good for performing the install and maintenance if Web/SSH/Console access is unavailable for whatever reason (it also helps keep the board more versatile and not limited to headless duties only).

    A PCIe x16 (x8 at a minimum) slot would be good, even if you don't have the free 16 lanes to wire to it, wire what you can. Almost anything you can get in PCI you can get in PCIe nowadays and even some things that are PCIe only. It just makes sense to go PCIe. I've never seen a M-ITX board with more than one slot though but two x8/x16 slots wouldn't be a bad idea if you have the room/lanes. It's rare to see anything but a video card have an x16 connector on it, usually the biggest you will see is x4 or x8 but being able to stick an x16 card in even if it has to connect at a lower rate is a good investment. This would let you add in even more NICs or a crypto card or whatever you want.

    For a firewall I can't see needing more than 2 USB ports, obviously other duties will possible need more. Even then the two ports might not ever get used. Say one for a keyboard occasionally if that and maybe one to house a 3g/4g modem? What about an onboard CF slot or similar like SD or even USB? Would be good for embedded installs and not just pfsense related, ESXi or many other things could put it to use. USB would be more versatile and is being included on many name brand servers for embedded hypervisor installs so it should be robust enough but I'm sure there will be many die hard CF fans out there too (and there's nothing wrong with CF).

    Again, for a firewall you wouldn't need more than 2 SATA ports and they don't even need to be 6 Gbps variety. If you don't do CF/SD/USB or just want a real drive, two ports is all you need for a RAID 1 setup (would of course also need a controller or ICH or similar in the chipset). Then again in the interest of other uses more ports would be good. I'm not so sure how usable 6 Gbps ports would be still but 4-6 ports of any flavor wouldn't be bad, are likely already supported by the chipset anyway and won't take up much room. Maybe have one of the ports wired to an eSATA port on the back panel for external expansion in other uses of the board?

    Got any pics yet by chance? At the price this sounds like an awesome deal. It would for sure be a great board for use in space constrained environments or even in a data center. For that matter since it's capable of so much more and waaaaaaaaay overkill for firewall duties I'd recommend ESXi and pfsense as a VM along with whatever else you want. Would put those extra SATA ports to use lol.



  • @R1team:

    Im currently finding that out off the manufacturer but i would assume around $200-$250 mark, obviously once i know for sure i will post up the actual price.

    Sounds good, count me in as interested. :)



  • @JoelC707:

    Regarding the PCI riser and heatsink issue, how tall is the riser and how tall is the heatsink? I see some risers that push the card out almost flush with the motherboard itself which wouldn't work with ANY heatsink.

    You've been looking at right-facing risers (from the front of the board).  There are left-facing risers that extend outwards. (in fact, almost all PCIe risers are so).  For right facing, you'll want to get flexi-risers instead.

    @JoelC707:

    So on the board itself, here's what I think. The 4 onboard NICs are a VERY good idea. I haven't seen that in anything short of a standard ATX board. As stated serial ports would be good for console redirect, LCD options, UPS shut down, whatever. I doubt you need anything better than an RS-232 though. Some kind of onboard video would be good for performing the install and maintenance if Web/SSH/Console access is unavailable for whatever reason (it also helps keep the board more versatile and not limited to headless duties only).

    Agreed.  Some kind of onboard video that is well supported by most OSes (Matrox/ ATI Rage) would be nice.  This would also increase the amount of interest in the board (say for NAS or simple home server duties) and can help bring down the costs if the volume is increased sufficiently.

    @JoelC707:

    A PCIe x16 (x8 at a minimum) slot would be good, even if you don't have the free 16 lanes to wire to it, wire what you can. Almost anything you can get in PCI you can get in PCIe nowadays and even some things that are PCIe only. It just makes sense to go PCIe. I've never seen a M-ITX board with more than one slot though but two x8/x16 slots wouldn't be a bad idea if you have the room/lanes. It's rare to see anything but a video card have an x16 connector on it, usually the biggest you will see is x4 or x8 but being able to stick an x16 card in even if it has to connect at a lower rate is a good investment. This would let you add in even more NICs or a crypto card or whatever you want.

    I think a PCIe x4 electrical is good enough.  There is no need for a PCIe x16 mechanical slot, a PCIe x4 open-back slot would suffice and would actually save circuit board estate space (low profile ICs can be mounted behind the PCIe x4 slot as opposed to an x16 slot which eats into the board mounting surface).

    @JoelC707:

    For a firewall I can't see needing more than 2 USB ports, obviously other duties will possible need more. Even then the two ports might not ever get used. Say one for a keyboard occasionally if that and maybe one to house a 3g/4g modem? What about an onboard CF slot or similar like SD or even USB? Would be good for embedded installs and not just pfsense related, ESXi or many other things could put it to use. USB would be more versatile and is being included on many name brand servers for embedded hypervisor installs so it should be robust enough but I'm sure there will be many die hard CF fans out there too (and there's nothing wrong with CF).

    I think 4 USB slots would be a better option.  One for Kb, one for mouse, one for perhaps a communication device like a 3G/ dial-up modem and one more for UPS.  Rather than to limit to purely 2 ports which may not be sufficient in the event that you want to connect a UPS via USB and do occupy the other 2 slots with a USB KVM and a dongle of sorts.

    @JoelC707:

    Again, for a firewall you wouldn't need more than 2 SATA ports and they don't even need to be 6 Gbps variety.

    The chipset supports it and 4 more SATA slots don't take up that much space.  Throwing in the extra slots means that this board can be used as a quality NAS unit (6 SATA slots and multi-Intel GBe).  Makes for increasing the market interest, which, again, can mean better pricing with larger volume.



  • I hate to break it to you guys talking about customization but i dont think thats going to be happening anytime soon as you need a minimum order of 300 boards and have to pay a fee for them custom designing your board.

    so i would just like to find out who is interested in the portwells WADE-8011 board if you google it you can find all the specs for it.

    cheers



  • Hi guys i would just like to direct you to a thread i have created at OCAU (of course if this is not allowed i will remove it)
    http://forums.overclockers.com.au/showthread.php?t=970825

    Again if your interested please comment so i can add you to the list on OCAU cheers

    Regards

    Robert



  • @R1team:

    I hate to break it to you guys talking about customization but i dont think thats going to be happening anytime soon as you need a minimum order of 300 boards and have to pay a fee for them custom designing your board.

    so i would just like to find out who is interested in the portwells WADE-8011 board if you google it you can find all the specs for it.

    cheers

    Did you read the OP at all? A custom board is already in the works with an initial run of 200 units.



  • @dreamslacker - don't wanna do all the quoting you did cause I just have a few things to add lol.

    I did see the left facing risers, wasn't sure if they would work though in a desktop chassis, rackmount sure but you have more room there anyway.

    I completely forgot about the open back slots and have even seen them in person before. You are very true on the real estate issue, if it's short enough it can go behind the slot and not interfere with a long card installed. The real question becomes how many free PCIe lanes will be available for a slot. True that you don't need a full 16 lanes but if you wanted to add a RAID card to this to beef up it's use in a NAS environment you would need an x8 slot most likely (for a high end card like an Areca, 3ware, LSI, Adaptec, etc). If you just wanted to add an HBA then even an x1 slot would likely be sufficient for that but I don't think that will be the case. Aside from a RAID or extra NICs card I can't think of anything that would get installed. Something beyond a 1 port NIC would likely need an x4 or x8 slot (depending on configuration and port count of course). So yeah, x16 slot not needed but x4 would be my bare minimum, x8 would be better.

    True that 4 USB would be better than 2, it won't take up much extra space anyway. If you had a UPS and 3g card you've filled all available ports so where does your KB/Mouse go? 4 is better, though there is always a cheap hub…

    On the SATA ports, I wasn't really saying only have  2 ports, that's not enough for other uses. For firewall duties it is though. To keep the board more open ended and not locked into one purpose, you will have to do more SATA ports. And like you said, comparatively they don't take up much space.



  • Yeah do you have an eta on this run of 200 boards??? otherwise its just speculation, i would like to get something happening with the next 2-3weeks



  • Why not buy a supermicro board for similar costs that you know is properly designed and broad support?  I'd not trust any critical use to a small run board from some unknown vendor….

    @john:

    I know someone who is having a custom m-ITX board made. 200 copies of this board will be made in the first run. The board will be based on the new C206 chipset and will take any of the E12XX series Xeon CPU range as well i3, i5 and i7 procs.

    The E1220 Xeon is interesting….20w TDP. The i3 proc could be interesting to run a fw on as well.

    I need 20+ boards myself so have got involved in this custom board. I have asked for 4 x Intel 82574L Nics to satisfy my requirements and they have said this can be done.

    Is there anything else desirable to include on this board for pfsense use you can think of? The E12xx Xeons and the i3/5/7 have the encryption acceleration instruction set onboard so that's covered already. Anything else? I am wondering if a daughter board that takes 2x Fiber connections would be useful - any of you think that would be useful?

    In general would sort of features would make this board kick ass for a fw use?



  • @R1team:

    Yeah do you have an eta on this run of 200 boards??? otherwise its just speculation, i would like to get something happening with the next 2-3weeks

    I can understand you want to get something together now and that's fine, some people here might even join in on your group buy. But that doesn't mean you get to come into someone else's thread and say what they are putting together is speculation and not going to happen anytime soon. Of course they know it requires a quantity and have to pay a fee for it to be built, that's common sense. The way I take the info from the OP is that he knows someone who is already doing this and has everything lined up. Now he is just looking for "what would you do with this" type responses. Since they are making 200 boards, the person that originally started this probably doesn't need anywhere near that many and is looking for others that might want to share in the 200 boards with their own customized versions (small enough customizations that it can be applied to all of them without major retooling). Similar to the group buy you are trying to get started with an already built board.


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