Once the CPU is selected, the second step in the build-your-own model approach is to choose the proper motherboard. The motherboard must be able to support the CPU of choice. In addition, there have to be enough PCIe slots to accommodate GPUs, SSDs, network card if it’s not embedded, and other devices.
Workstation or Server
The type of computer, whether it’s a workstation or server will dictate the type of motherboard required. Workstations tend to have extra features such as embedded audio or several USB ports to support gaming, video editing, or 3D rendering use cases. However, these features are a waste for servers. If it’s going to be a rack-based server sitting in a 3rd party colocation facility, selecting the right motherboard, case, and cooling system become of the utmost importance because it’ll sit unattended for its lifespan. The last thing anyone wants is a system overheating and burnout.
PCIe 4.0 is the standard. It supports a 16 GT/s data rate and 64 GB/s of bandwidth, double over the previous generation. However, PCIe 5.0 is out and in due time, it will become the standard, which will double the performance of the previous generation. Motherboards, CPUs, and chipsets are coming out today supporting 5.0. Here are the speeds for all PCIe generations. The GB/s is Gigabytes per second, not gigabits per second. Also, PCIe operates at full-duplex, meaning that data can be sent and received simultaneously each at the rates below. For example, in PCIe 4.0 the total transfer rate is 32 GT/s.
- PCIe 1.0 (2004): 2.5 GT/s and 8 GB/s bandwidth
- PCIe 2.0 (2007): 5 GT/s and 16 GB/s bandwidth
- PCIe 3.0 (2010): 8 GT/s and 32 GB/s bandwidth
- PCIe 4.0 (2017): 16 GT/s and 64 GB/s bandwidth
- PCIe 5.0 (2019): 32 GT/s and 128 GB/s bandwidth
- PCIe 6.0 (2022): 64 GT/s and 256 GB/s bandwidth
AMD Ryzen Threadripper
The AMD Rzyen Threadripper was designed for desktops. It uses socket sTR4 or sTRX4 depending on the model. There are dozens of motherboard models that support this processor, AMD has listed some motherboard manufacturers to make it easy in finding the right option. The supported motherboards on the AMD website are listed below with prices (12/18/21) from Newegg. These types are motherboards are geared toward gamers.
- Asus ROG Zenith II Extreme: $1,183
- GIGABYTE TRX40 AORUS XTREME: $1,198
- MSI Creator TRX40: $1,498
- ASRock TRX40 Taichi: $899
AMD Ryzen PRO Threadripper
The AMD Ryzen PRO Threadripper is designed for workstations, especially those geared toward 3D rendering and video editing. It uses the sTRX4 chipset and requires 280 W to power it. AMD list a select few motherboards supporting this process, which are listed below. However, there are dozens more that support the Ryzen PRO series processors. The motherboards on the list here might not be the ideal solution for a particular use case. For example, perhaps more PCIe slots are required.
Intel Xeon Platinum CPUs
The Xeon Platinum CPUs are the latest generation processors introduced by Intel. They are designed for the data center. The motherboards listed below are specifically for rack-mountable servers. As such, they are ideal for deploying in colocation facilities such as Equinix, Coresite, or any other number of data centers. When it comes to building rack-mountable servers, special attention should be paid to airflow and cooling. Since these servers might be sitting in a 3rd party colo, ensuring proper cooling when multiple GPUs are used is vital, or else parts can start to burn out.