First production Kestrel and Arctic Terns? (OpenPOWER compute modules exist!)

Thanks, D, who's quicker on the draw than I am: this image popped up on the Raptor Wiki. Looks like Kestrel and Arctic Tern made it to full prototyping, and maybe on the way to production!

This image shows a Blackbird being brought up solely with the Kestrel soft BMC (the metadata says the ASPEED BMC was completely disabled), powered by a much more advanced design than the ECP5 card we saw in the last iteration, especially because this is now a set of custom boards. The PCIe carrier card has Ethernet and two HDMI ports to the left, and what looks like JTAG and serial (grey ribbon) on the right near the LEDs. The "hat" board has been incorporated into the carrier with the LPC, FSI (the black cables curling around out and back into frame go to the connector next to DIMM A1) and I2C signals, and a separate ribbon cable carries the TPM lines.

So far, this is mostly just moving components around. But new on this carrier card are two SO-DIMM style module slots, both populated with what looks like the same sort of card, though only the top one seems to be active. These modules are labeled "ARCTIC TERN ECP5 MODBMC (?) CARD AT1MB1 REV 1.01 (C)2022 RAPTOR COMPUTING SYSTEMS, LLC" (there was a rev 1.0? what did we miss?). This is clearly the CPU card on which the Kestrel soft BMC software runs. The BMC flash likely lives on these boards, but not the PNOR, which appears to be on flash chips on the carrier to the left of the LEDs. UPDATE: this thread says the modules have 1GB of DDR3 RAM each (!), and the CPU fan is directly connected to the carrier. They can be accessed remotely.

It really looks like it may be shipping in the very near future and I'm jazzed about how fast Kestrel reportedly can bring the system to power-ready. But there are two more exciting things about this: first, if this is laid out the way it appears to me to be, this means you can have two BMCs for a libre dual-monitor setup right out of the box, no extra PCI cards or firmware blobs required. (Suck it, Nvidia.) Second, and even more notable, this means that OpenPOWER compute modules may soon be a thing! Given Raptor Engineering, I'm sure hoping these will be sold for standalone projects, especially if the onboard Microwatt-core performance is competitive with RPi and other ARM boards. Maybe then the people whining about how much it costs to play with OpenPOWER will finally get something at a lower price point to play with (and then they can complain about that).

That said, we still don't know price or availability yet, and we don't know if there will be a way to add a Kestrel setup without using a precious PCIe slot (after all, the T2 Lite has only three, and the Blackbird just two; hopefully it can be configured to pull power from something else). But there's a lot of good things in this picture and we're looking forward to hearing more in what are no doubt soon-to-come official announcements.


  1. There was some discussion about it on the LibreSOC mailing list.

  2. I had a pretty dumb idea for expanding my blackbird's pcie slots when it comes in. I bought one of those pcie switch cards and plan to run riser boards for extra cards. If bandwidth is an issue my backup plan is to get one of those active dual m2 cards and run 2 m.2 to pcie 4x risers off it. Benefit of that one is it gen 3 4x as opposed to gen 2 2x. Its also a lot more expensive so ill see how the first ones goes.


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