Forbidden Arm server banned in US

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The Forbidden Arm server cover web

In one of the most ambitious projects STH has undertaken, we have a Huawei TaiShan server to show you. What makes this server more interesting than being banned in the United States is that the processors it uses are Arm server processors from Huawei/HiSilicon. Specifically, it is a Huawei/HiSilicon Kunpeng 920 server which was one of the first Armv8 server processors with up to 64 cores and PCIe Gen4 support. In terms of project status, this server has been very picky, which we covered in the recent Solidigm D7-P5520 7.68TB PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD on x86 Arm and Power9 review. So instead of a review at this point, we’re going to dwell on that further to just document what we found and discuss what makes this banned server unique. As we went through the hardware configuration, it was clear that this server was very different, and there was a ton to cover just by looking at the hardware.

Introducing the Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Server

We will divide our hardware overview into two sections. We will have an external and internal overview. On the internal overview, we’re going to dive deeper with more photos than normal on some of the really interesting non-CPU components. There will also be a second track dedicated to the Kunpeng 920. If you prefer to listen and see more shots via video, we have a video for that:

As always, we suggest you open it in its own browser, tab, or app for the best viewing experience. There are a few angles in the video that we don’t have photos of just due to the nature of the video.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 External Server Overview

Starting with the front of the server, it’s a 24-bay 2.5-inch design. This is a fairly standard configuration for 2U servers, at least until we enter the EDSFF era.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Front
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Front

In this server, eight slots are NVMe while the other slots are SATA/SAS.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 2.5 inch drive tray
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 2.5 inch drive tray

What was surprising was that the drive platters weren’t toolless. They still need screws. Huawei also uses blank drives like Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo rather than just supplying disk platters like Supermicro, Inspur, QCT and others.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 2.5 inch Blank Tray
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 2.5 inch Blank Tray

Although it is a TaiShan 200 2280, it is the part label with K22R-02.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 model information including FCC
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 model information including FCC

On the left side we get the Huawei logo, power and status/LCD LEDs.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Front Left
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Front Left

On the right side, there is a VGA port and two USB 3.0 ports. Most of the servers we review have at most one front USB port, which is a bit different.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Front Right
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Front Right

Moving to the back, things start to get a little more exciting. You can see that there are eight full-height PCIe slots, but only one can be used for a card.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Rear 2
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Rear 2

Primary networking is provided through two OCP NIC 3.0 slots. We’ll dive deeper into this four-port 1GbE solution, but let’s just say it’s one of the more interesting solutions.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Rear 4x 1GbE Realtek OCP
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 Rear 4x 1GbE Realtek OCP

The main I/O block has a management port, an RJ45 serial port, a VGA port and two USB ports. This is a standard stack, except that we rarely see serial ports in the RJ45 form factor in servers. These are more common in switches and firewalls. This section is connected to a PCB with a chip on which we cannot find information via Google, and we will come back to this in our internal in-depth analysis.

Rear I/O Huawei TaiShan 200 2280
Rear I/O Huawei TaiShan 200 2280

The other OCP NIC 3.0 slot is to the right of the I/O block.

In slot 8 we get a 25GbE quad-port HNS card.

Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 HNS 4x 25GbE NIC Rear
Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 HNS 4x 25GbE NIC Rear

One of the two power supplies was damaged during transport. This one has many ratings and certifications, including the 80Plus Platinum certification. This is also a 200V+ power supply, so it is not intended for low-power 110-120V North American racks.

Power supply Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 2kW
Power supply Huawei TaiShan 200 2280 2kW

As exciting as it sounds, the most exciting aspect is really what we see inside the server. From the outside, it’s pretty standard. Once inside, things get interesting. Let’s get to that.

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