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A server motherboard provides a common communication channel between CPU and other hardware on a server. Although similar in function with computer motherboards, these are more robust by design. Like all server components, you can expect them to withstand heat, friction and vibration in a high-density IT Network environment. The form factor of a server housing and compatibility with other hardware determine the kind of server motherboard you need. For example, a Mini ITX motherboard can only fit components specific to this form factor. Cooling capabilities and future expansion are other important considerations.
Different server form factors fit different motherboards. The typical types are ATX, Mini ITX and Micro ATX motherboards. Take into account the rack type and components to pick the right form factor for your server chassis. If your application requires multiple redundant server power supplies, you may opt for an ATX form factor. It is the same size as a typical tower PC. If you’re building a data center with many servers, a mini or Micro ATX may work better. The smaller size and adaptable orientation of these form factors provide more flexibility.
Motherboards can fit only specific CPUs, you must pick a motherboard that fits your CPU. When choosing a workstation motherboard, you consider the CPUs with optimal performance. However, this is always not the case with server motherboards. Servers typically work in a network where the processes are distributed. The software handles the majority of overhead in such a distributed system, leaving enough room for slightly underperforming hardware. This makes it easier to make more efficient choices. With motherboards that support different CPUs from the same brand, you can be flexible in choosing the compute power. This also gives you an edge when upgrading the server memory or CPU. You should be able to keep your motherboard in most cases.
When building a server, your goal should be to improve efficiency wherever you can. Storage and memory are a good place to start. To use the type of memory or storage, you will need a compatible server motherboard. For example, an ECC memory carries an extra chip to correct common errors, but you need a supporting motherboard to use it. Cost-effective non-ECC memory is smaller and fits a different kind of motherboard. Pick a server motherboard to enjoy support for ECC and non-ECC memory.
Any data center faces the challenge of cooling efficiently. Even a single server system is vulnerable to heating related failures. Smaller form factor servers are especially prone to heating. A Micro ITX server motherboard has to provide more cooling than an ATX one. Many motherboards have enhanced cooling capabilities even in smaller sizes. While you can always pick components that generate less heat or require smaller server power supplies, efficient in-built cooling of a motherboard is desirable. This design choice will save you in the long run in the cooling costs of your data center. You also leave a smaller footprint on the environment and improve government compliance around the world.