Arctic Tern available for purchase


Raptor now has Arctic Terns available for purchase, along with the user's guide. The US$1600 bundle comes with the PCIe carrier card, one ECP5 FPGA module (using Microwatt, the FPGA OpenPOWER core), FSI and JTAG adaptors and all the necessary cabling to connect to a Talos II system (we presume this means the entire T2 family including the T2 Lite and Blackbird, but it doesn't say — more about that in a moment UPDATE: it does now). As it is designed to completely replace the onboard ASPEED BMC, there are fan, Ethernet and two (!) HDMI connectors on board. There is a second module slot as we surmised, but it appears most board functions will be available with just one FPGA module installed, as provided in this bundle (fortunate since an extra module is US$900).

Unfortunately it looks like it does need its own PCIe slot and people like me with a nearly full loadout will be a bit disappointed if that's truly the case. We don't yet know, because the user's guide doesn't look like it has installation instructions for any T2 family system either even though it does have Raptor's usual studious pinouts and schematics. Being primarily a peripheral, I look forward to seeing additional documentation posted since no one wants to buy a $1600 card, get it home and accidentally brick it and their expensive OpenPOWER computer. Once I get my hands on one, we'll talk more about it.

Comments

  1. The Kestrel README contains an overview of what needs to be connected: https://gitlab.raptorengineering.com/kestrel-collaboration/kestrel-litex/litex-boards/-/blob/master/README.md#how-to-connect
    You can ignore the part about soldering, I believe the "FSI adapter" in the "BMC kit" is a level shifter. Not seen any Arctic Tern-specific instructions so far, though.

    The listings for both the carrier board and the BMC kit contain the phrase "[...]a full BMC hardware solution for our Talos II and Blackbird products." Ironically, the Kestrel README still states it has been tested on Blackbird and *not* Talos II... Raptor was never great about consistency or keeping their resources up to date.

    Also, the PCIe connection is nonessential according to Raptor's Twitter, and (as I understand it) isn't even enabled on Kestrel yet. It will be necessary if you want to use the BMC as a framebuffer, though, and you'll have to get creative with positioning it close enough to the required connectors.
    https://nitter.snopyta.org/RaptorCompSys/status/1549106092621369345
    https://nitter.snopyta.org/RaptorCompSys/status/1548097582630445058

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    1. That was not the language up on the site when this article went out, so I'm glad they corrected it. However, as for the rest of what you said, you've made my point: there's really insufficient documentation up for a $1600 device. At minimum there needs to be an installation guide. I appreciate the insider information though.

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    2. I'm assuming these should be treated as early developer units right now, for people who care enough about the BMC attack surface to take a chance on some early-stage hardware. I intend to take a soldering iron to one of my Talos2 motherboards to change the pinstraps on the ASPEED so I don't even have to let it boot. And if that doesn't work, I will desolder it completely.

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    3. Raptor here. Right now we're in the initial launch focused more on the developer market, and will be publishing a more end-user focused how-to guide in the near future.

      Regarding Talos II / Blackbird, the end target is both systems. Right now, firmware support exists but we are still working through instability potentially related to the longer distance between the TPM header and the card on Blackbird mainboards -- obviously this is something we would like to solve with HDL updates prior to recommending the card be installed in a non-developer Blackbird system.

      Please keep in mind Kestrel is a massive project that is attempting to provide a lot of functionality in open form for the first time. As such it is still very much a work in progress, and while the hardware is in a final form the HDL itself is still being worked on, for example the PCIe interface is not yet active in the Kestrel system beyond supplying power to the card. We are actively working on an open PCIe core that would enable the data links on the card, but do not have a timeline for release yet.

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    4. As a follow on to the above, yes, the card can and does work without being attached to a PCIe slot. It does mean that you have to find an alternate mechanical mounting means while keeping the TPM header close to the LPC header on the card, but it is a supported configuration. In that case, it is likely useful to keep the ASpeed SoC active enough to serve as the VGA controller, since even after the PCIe enablement is complete for Arctic Tern there would still be no way to use it to replace the ASpeed VGA controller block without it being plugged into a PCIe slot.

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    5. Yeah, I'm not happy about it either—as it stands, I had to do plenty of digging to get everything working how I wanted in Blackbird-land in the first place. This is a pretty weak showing for a product launch, yet other than the "development kit" language, RCS seems to act like it's a proper thing. It's unclear whether this is its final form or whether there will be a stripped-down cheaper option later on (besides "buy an ECP5 devboard and roll your own")...

      ...which is especially pertinent given the pricing on display here. The bundle is $300 more than the module + carrier separately, and for what, some cables and adapters??? I know JTAG gets expensive, but at least give a name to this "JTAG adapter" being included.

      Unfortunately the BMC on my household's Blackbird has become quite flaky when it comes to cold-starting, so in the end Arctic Tern may be a necessary purchase for me to avoid a lifetime of turn-it-off-and-on-again anytime the power goes out. That's why I sought out the info about the carrier board's PCIe, given the Blackbird's limitations in that department. Given that motivation, Raptor is making it surprisingly hard to press the buy button on this kit...

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    6. Ah, I wrote my entire post before seeing Raptor's comments. I appreciate the information (and all the hard work you folks do!), but I came away from the initial announcements more confused and wanting for info than anything else. Twitter is not the best platform for providing details, after all... 😅 It's useful to know that there's more to come regarding end-user installation etc. ahead of time, if only to avoid the feeling of needing to do detective work to make an informed decision. I mainly didn't want to be left out in the cold (hah) if the stock were to vanish, hence my harried deliberations.

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  2. Does that mean Raptor will produce revised motherboards with the BMC replaced ? Or will they wait for whatever next Power CPU that is really open to integrate it in the motherboard design?

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    1. The long and short of this is ... it depends. We already have a special-purpose mainboard (Sparrowhawk, 6U VPX) that has no ASpeed onboard, and uses essentially a soldered-down Kestrel system instead. Whether this trickles down to the consumer market depends entirely on how quickly the remaining features can be implemented and the final performance results along with whether enough POWER9 volume remains at that time to justify such an invasive / costlypdate to the mainboard designs.

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  3. It's good seeing this won't eat up that x8 slot. One more thing to buy in the future but should be worth it in the long run!

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