First and foremost, this probably contains Dunglish. I haven’t found any good blogpost about the subject, so here’s the new defacto reference.

XW9400 in short

The xw9400 is a dual socket F workstation based on the nVidia 3600 series chipset. It offers eight memory banks capable of holding a maximum of 64GB. It holds two PCI-E x8, two x16 slots, two PCI-X slots (133Mhz/disabled or 100Mhz/100Mhz) and one PCI slot. It has 6 s-ata ports through the nvidia chipset and the embedded (hence the E) LSI SAS 1068E chip onboard offers 8 SAS ports. The tour concludes with two gigabit ports and digital (coaxial and optical) and analog (spkr/mic/in) audio connectors.

Why I like this

I bought a xw9400 second hand with ESXi in mind. I use it mostly as a NAS (with NexentaStor NAS/SAN). It also runs a uTorrent box, LAMP installation and a few other services. The main reason I chose this machine for the job is that PCI-X adapters (network/storage/…) second hand are pretty cheap in comparison to their PCI-e successors. PCI-X offers more than enough bandwidth required to fill up a gigabit connection. The quantity of s-ata/sas ports is overwhelming on this box, the case by default only holds five 3.5″ disks. Four in the green brackets, and one underneath attached to the floor plate. I have it configured with a Coolermaster 4-in-3 module, effectively holding 9 disks. It’s a relatively small, silent (but very heavy) home server.

Motherboards

Officially

Using the quickspecs as reference the XW9400 should support Santa Rose, Shanghai and Istanbul cores. Interesting enough Barcelonas (historically between Santa and Shanghai) are left out the list. Below a feature/spec/tdp summary. In short only the Santa Rose and pre-b2 Barcelonas don’t have hardware virtualisation support (due to TLB bug/no support)

  • Santa Rose 90nm, dual cores, PC5300, 95W
  • Barcelona 65nm, quad cores, PC5300, SVN&RVI, 75W (SE:105W)
  • Shanghai 45nm, quad cores, PC6400, SVN&RVI, 115W (SE:137W)
  • Istanbul 45nm, six cores, PC6400, SVN&RVI, 115W (SE:137W)
Good to know

The mainboard is designed by Tyan and is more known as Tyan Thunder n6650W (S2915WA2NRF to be precisely). Both mainboards seem hardware-wise the same but seem to differ in BIOS.

It’s very very important to know the XW9400 has multiple revisions of the same motherboard, the revisions are very important when figuring out which board supports what processor. Interesting fact is that Tyan also mentions different CPU support depending on whether your boards ends in a -E or not (look for Thunder n6650W).

This bit of text floats on the internets, I never found the original source, but it seems to be genuine and generally attributed as ‘official’ information.

When the 2300 series processors initially ship on the xw9400, the motherboard will be a uni-plane design. This motherboard is identified by a part number ending in -003 and will be used to ship all 2200 processors and the non-SE versions of the 2300 processors. To support the SE versions of the 2300 processors a DDPM capable (split plane) version of the motherboard will be introduced, it will be identified by a part number ending in -004. When the -004 motherboard is introduced, all 2300 processors will ship using this motherboard.. 2200 processors will continue to ship using the -003 motherboard until the supply of -003 motherboards is depleted at which time all xw9400 shipments will use the -004, split-plane, motherboard. SE versions of the 2300 processors are ONLY supported on the -004 motherboard.

Steven R Peterson seems to know more about it.

408544-001/002: ONLY supports Opteron models 22xx
408544-003: supports same as above plus models 2352, 2354 & 2356
408544-004: supports same as above plus Opteron models 2358SE, 2360SE with BIOS 3.02 or greater and models 23xx with BIOS 3.12 or greater

The hardware is essentially the same for the -001/002/003 MB versions. The major difference between these versions is the BIOS bootblock which is not customer upgradeable. A bootblock date of 10/12/07 or later is required for Opteron 23xx.
The -004 added support for AMD DPPM and is required for the Series 2300 SE (105W) and later (including Shanghai) CPUs.

Rereading the bold text, this means a rev. 001, 002 or 003 board with a bootblock date of 10/12/07 (DD/MM/YY?) or later enables you to run a unsupported Opteron 2300 (Barcelona, 65nm). Certain users mention this setup working as am I, my motherboard however fried and I’m now stuck with a old rev 001 with the wrong boot block date.

There a single remaining option for most users: flash your HP board with a Tyan BIOS. Users report (unofficial) Barcelona support and this procedure works with one drawback: they seemingly lose their network interfaces.

Myself I have a second option since I still have the old board with a working boot block date. I (or a pro) could desolder the chip and install the one from my fried board.

References

pps. about the CPU pass-thru filler, you don’t need it, it’ll power up fine without (do remember you can only use the four RAM slots associated with the first socket). It’ll give you an annoying notice and requires you to hit F1 but it’ll boot fine. I don’t know where to get these fillers, I do own one but don’t use it.