Monday, June 4, 2012

Ivy Bridge Motherboards -- Don't *Really* Exist!

So, if you're like me, and you've been shopping for a new system lately because you're last one is dying or dead, you might see some fancy looking Intel E3-1200v2 Xeon systems.  (Why Xeon?  Because ECC memory is a good thing.  I attribute some of my difficulty with my last system to using non-ECC memory.  Because its not ECC, I don't really know whether the problem was in RAM or CPU, but I digress...)

Great, so you pick out a E3-1240v2 Ivy Bridge CPU, and then you look for a System Board.

I found the Supermicro X9SCA-F-O.  Looks like a sweet board.  The spec claims support for the E3-1200v2 cpus, and 1600MHz RAM.  It has a separate IPMI LAN support, as well.  Sweet!  (Look closer though....)

So, package arrives from NewEgg, and you're ready to go.

Assemble the kit.... if you're a software guy like me this might take a couple of hours.

Power it on.

Beep!  Beep!  Beep!  Beep!

WTF does that mean!?  Google "4 beeps supermicro".

Oh, "Unsupported processor."  Further reading....

The system needs a BIOS update (to v2.0) in this case.  Seems reasonable.

Download the instructions....

"Step 1. First, boot the motherboard with an E3-1200 series (not E3-1200 V2)
processor..."

WTF!?!  A new E3-1200 (that's Sandy Bridge mind you, still fairly recent stuff) processor is going to cost me like 200 bucks, minimum.  And I can't return it after I buy it except to exchange it with a different CPU.  But I already have the E3-1240v2.

Anyone want to buy a very lightly used E3-1220 from me?  It looks like I'll be purchasing one tomorrow. Ultimately, I can't afford not to burn the $200, because I simply don't have the time to keep screwing around this stuff.  I've burned the better part of today trying to wrangle hardware.  (Hmmm.... where's a Systems Engineer when you need one?)  Conversely, anyone got one lying around they want to give, loan, or sell really cheap?

Shame on you Supermicro.  There are at least several things you could have done better here:

1. Make it much clearer that if buying a unit, it should include a legacy CPU first.  (I.e. that Ivy Bridge support is only for people upgrading CPUs and not building new systems.)

2. Have a separate SKU for systems that have the requisite BIOS changes.  Even if the silk-screen on the board is the same (and it shouldn't be, because the silk screening indicates only 1066 and 1333 MHz RAM supported, although the BIOS enables 1600 MHz), having the separate SKU lets buyers make sure they have the bits needed.

3. Work with retailers to ensure that existing stock is returned and upgraded as soon as possible.

4. Offer an expedited RMA process for people like me who are screwed in the meantime.  (To be fair, I've not called supermicro yet, but Googling tells me people have not had good luck with this option yet.  The only solution that has worked for people is to get their own 2nd processor.)

5. Technically, this board has an IPMI unit on it.  I think that means it has a separate microprocessor. Why can't I update the BIOS using that?  That would eliminate the need to buy a second CPU, at least for those of us with IPMI enabled gear.

Lessons for me:

1. Its probably worth a couple hundred bucks to let someone else put together the system for me.  I'm a driver guy -- futzing around with actual bits of silicon and cabling, its not my forte.

2. There's a reason it's called the bleeding edge.  I think I got cut with it today.

9 comments:

Unknown said...

Did you call/email supermicro?

Maybe their customer service will surprise you.

Unknown said...

Have you called newegg/supermicro?

Maybe they can send you another board with the properly flashed bios.

Pieter Viljoen said...

Did you get this resolved?

I have 2 unopened SuperMicro boxes ready to be installed with v2 processors, same situation.

Update via IPMI seemed like the obvious choice, but it seems you can't update the BIOS via IPMI?

P.

Garrett D'Amore said...

I bought an Intel Core i3 (Sandy Bridge based) CPU to do the upgrade. It cost me a little more (about a hundred bucks if I recall), but it let me move forward.

I have the i3 processor back in the box now.

Unknown said...

Have you checked to see if Illuminos or SmartOS boot on the Ivy Bridge chip fine? I heard the SmartOS guys had to do some finangling with it to boot right on Sandy Bridge, wondering if it 'just works' with the Ivy Bridge processor.

windlepoons said...

Have you checked to see if Illuminos or SmartOS boot on the Ivy Bridge chip fine? I heard the SmartOS guys had to do some finangling with it to boot right on Sandy Bridge, wondering if it 'just works' with the Ivy Bridge processor.

301movedpermanently said...

We had the same problem. We used a Celeron G440 to update the bios. It's only 40 bucks, way cheaper than buying another Xeon or i3.

burda said...

I called Supermicro with the same issue and they cross-shipped a new board with the new BIOS for no charge. They just had to put a hold on my credit card.

burda said...

I called Supermicro about the same issue. They cross-shipped a new board with the updated BIOS for no charge. I just had a hold on my credit card until they received the old board.