Usually when people recommend AMD for building a server workstation, their first thought goes to the Threadripper (TR4) platform. The TR4 platform offers fast clock speeds and many cores at a reasonable price point, however it is restrictive in the sense that you can currently only install up to 128GB RAM. AMD EPYC 7000 Series supports up to 2 TiB of RAM for single socket configurations, which is more than enough for any solving we might realistically want to do on such a setup.
In this article we will show you an alternative build that will allow you to surpass the limitations of TR4, while still keeping the price in a manageable range.
For the SP3 socket, which currently supports AMD EPYC 7000 Series CPUs, we have a lot of options. Here is an overview of the current lineup of CPUs on offer by AMD:
For our build we will be using the 7401P which is currently available through Newegg for 1150 USD. We do not currently have any solver related benchmarks available for this CPU, but thread for thread it is reasonable to assume that it would perform worse than say a 1950x given the 1950x’s higher clock speeds, however given that we have 50% more threads and twice the L3 Cache, the overall performance for Monkersolver, for example, should be very respectable and perhaps even better. It is important however to keep in mind that the main incentive for this build is to be able to access more RAM, and not necessarily better CPU performance.
The market for AMD EPYC SP3 workstation motherboards is not very large, and so we do not have a lot of options to choose from. However, Gigabyte is a trusted brand in the computer hardware space, and they currently offer a reasonable product for our build, namely the MZ31-AR0. This board is feature rich, with a lot of add-on options, mainly for hard drivers, and various PCIe cards. Certainly overkill for our needs, but we just have to build with what is available to us, and it does improve resale value.
Finding a dealer for this motherbard may prove tricky in some regions, but they are available. For reference, you can check the Gigabyte website here to find a supplier in your region. At the time of writing we can find a supplier on eBay.com selling for 625.49 USD, but supply and pricing may vary, and it is necessary to do research for each individual use case to find the best deal for you.
For a full list of RAM modules that are compatible with the Gigabyte MZ31-AR0, please see Gigabyte’s website here. There are a lot of options to choose from, however we decided to go with Samsung’s 32GB M393A4K40BB2-CTD module based on availability, price, resale and reuse value. This module is currently available through Newegg for 347 USD per module. If we populate half of the 16 DIMM slots of the MZ31-AR0, then this will give us 256GB RAM, upgradeable to 512GB RAM, for 2856 USD.
The EPYC server processors do not come with integrated graphics, so we must opt for a dedicated card. For approximately 50 USD we can get a pretty decent solution with the Nvidia GT 710 that outputs up to 4k resolution.
For our server build, we will want an efficient and reliable PSU (power supply unit) that we can comfortably run 24/7. 550W will cover all of our power needs, while still allowing for some upgrades later down the line. This Seasonic PSU is fully modular, which means it will help keep the build in our case clean and tidy, and is compatible with a wide range of ATX form factor cases. The Seasonic SSR-550PX will currently set us back roughly 100 USD.
There are a few options to choose from here. The main thing to look out for is a case that supports the E-ATX form factor of the motherboard. For example, we could go with the Thermaltake View 71 TG, which is a larger version of the View 31 TG that we used in our Threadripper build. For this build, we have chosen the Thermaltake Suppressor F-51 Window for it’s silent properties, since a workstation running 24/7 can add quite a bit to the ambient noise. The price is also reasonable at approximately 120 USD at the time of writing.
AMD EPYC’s CPU multipliers are locked. This means that we won’t be doing any overclocking on this platform. All we need is a basic and reliable cooling solution. We have chosen the Noctua NH U9 TR4-SP3 that was especially designed for the TR4/SP3 socket for compatibility and noise levels. This will set us back 70 USD at the time of writing.
Finally for storage there are also a lot of options to choose from, our recommendation is based off of the officially supported parts list that can be found, as mentioned, here. It is likely that other hard drive configurations will function, but for the sake of providing a complete build with fully compatible parts, we will just follow Gigabyte’s tested recommendations. The Samsung SM951 NVMe, which is roughly equivalent to a Samsung 950 Pro, can be found in this capacity for around 200 USD new and used. We recommend trying Amazon and eBay and comparing prices and availability.
This build runs at a total of approximately 4524 USD at the time of writing, which is comparable to our 1950x Threadripper build, but with twice the RAM and 50% more threads to work with. We therefore think it is an option worth considering if you have 4-5k USD to spend on a workstation.
We hope this guide was useful, and please leave any comments or feedback you may have below in the comments section.