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[Libreboot] Current Status of ASUS KGPE-D16 from a Hosting Provider View

From: Thomas Umbach
Subject: [Libreboot] Current Status of ASUS KGPE-D16 from a Hosting Provider Viewpoint
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2015 12:59:34 +0000

Hash: SHA512

The ASUS KGPE-D16 is a recent, high-end, high-quality server board
that is ideal for hosting purposes (as well as an high-end
workstation). It is already supported in Libreboot git and already
available at


There is at least one project that plans to provide professional,
libre hosting with this board (e.g. VPN, VPS, websites, email, build
server, murmur and many more, as discussed in #libreboot &
#librespeech on freenode).
This would be a great leap towards a more "libre planet" and free
software as well as free hardware based completely on the back of
Canteloupe (Libreboot's mascot) and libre GNU/Linux distros - there's
no reason not to be enthusiastic about it.

  # AMD-V (x86 hardware virtualization "smd")
However, there is the caveat that it _may_ not work for hosting
companies very well because modern hosting relies heavily on
virtualization techniques. Mostly because, but not limited to, that
hosting providers will want to offer virtual private servers, which is
generally but not fully supported in Libreboot (yet):

According to the Libreboot maintainer, current and "premature reports
indicate that AMD-V will work, but with only 1 core in the VM [..] to
use multiple cores in the VM, you need microcode updates".
Again, "more testing is needed to confirm".

It may be more than questionable to use microcode to provide fully
supported virtualization because you would loose your freedom, on the
other hand it may proof unusable if only one kernel can be used in
each virtual machine (the performance in these virtual machines _will_
be low).

Let's wait and see on what the Libreboot developers and Raptor
Engineering will work out.

LRDIMM is currently not supported and would require more work
according to Raptor Engineering[0] and the Libreboot status page[1].
This should not be a major issue, since we don't need LRDIMMs, as it
provides only few advantages[2].
What is a little confusing, is that the mainboard specifications don't
mention LRDIMMs as supported.
The full amount of RAM (16 DDR3 1600 memory DIMMs for 256GB of RAM) is
available with RDIMMs which are fully supported.

  # SATA & SAS (via ASUS Pike 2008 8-port SAS2 6G RAID add-on card)
Good news: SATA is confirmed to work on all 6 ports[0] (6 x SATA2

According to [1] "SAS (via PIKE 2008 module) requires non-free option
ROM (and SeaBIOS) to boot from it (theoretically possible to replace,
but you can put a kernel in CBFS or on SATA and use that to boot GNU,
which can be on a SAS drive. The linux kernel can use these SAS drives
(via PIKE module) without an option ROM)."
According to the Libreboot maintainer, "none of this will be
integrated in Libreboot and probably won't be", so you will have to
configure it yourself. Also, newer informations from the Libreboot
maintainer say that "SAS RAID controller firmware [..] won't be freed".

Depending on the purpose of the machine, SATA (without hw RAID) will
be sufficient in many or most cases. Nowadays, a lot of hosting
companies are moving away from hardware RAID for good reasons (one is
flexibility). The CPUs available for this board, are more than
sufficient for software RAID.

  # Optional ASMB4-iKVM for Remote Management
Lights-out-management is one of the most important things to have when
providing hosting services on many machines. Most known existing kvm
over IP cards work with non-free firmware (the card itself) and
non-free Java (client side).
There once was a project (now abandoned) that provided a working,
possibly completely free (I did not double-check) kvm over IP solution

Why is lights-out-management so utterly important? Mostly because the
system administrator doesn't need to be physically present to work on
a machine, even if it won't boot. Further reading here [4].

According to Raptor Engineering (the company who ported the board to
coreboot and which works together with the Libreboot project to merge
it into Libreboot) it would be possible to port OpenBMC[5, 6] to the
add on iKVM card.
Generally speaking, it may be more efficient to find a PCI (?) add-on
card that will work with OpenBMC and this board as well and would only
require (if any) minor changes when plugged into another system.

- -- 
Best regards/Mit freundlichen Grüßen/Cordialement/Met vriendelijke groet
Thomas Umbach

GPG key fingerprint: FD5E 2543 EE62 7395 00A6  9FBB F228 7A48 7CA2 3FA5

  * Non-free software is an injustice. Use GNU/Linux.

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