The POWER8 Libre System Looks Set To Fail, Now There's An AMD Libre System Effort
Written by Michael Larabel in AMD on 9 January 2017 at 11:11 AM EST. 43 Comments
AMD --
It doesn't look like the Talos Secure Workstation will see the light of day with it's crowdfunding campaign ending this week and it's coming up more than three million dollars short of its financing goal. Now there's another effort to offer a libre system but using off-the-shelf x86 hardware.

Even though the campaign was extended for the Talos Secure Workstation, to date this POWER8, ATX-compatible, fully-open mainboard/system only raised $457,490 USD of its $3.7 million dollar goal. There are five days left to the campaign, but it's next to possible for any crowdfunding campaign to raise three million dollars with less than one week to go in its campaign.

Libreboot developer Leah Rowe is now launching a libre system out of the ashes of the Talos Secure Workstation. She wrote in an email to Phoronix, "It's a high-end desktop/server platform, available in either configuration. It also supports virtualization and PCI passthrough, unlike older systems, so Qubes would be compatible...TALOS looks set to fail. Crowd Supply has removed it from their homepage, and Raptor Engineering is writing up an announcement that TALOS is shutting down - they are going to link to Minifree and tell people to purchase Libreboot D16 from me."

But before getting too excited, this isn't a new platform but rather an existing AMD server motherboard that simply comes pre-loaded with Libreboot to free the firmware/BIOS and then loaded with Debian GNU/Linux. The desktop and server versions make use of an AMD Opteron 6272, a.k.a. the older 32nm "Interlagos" CPUs derived from Bulldozer and released back in 2011.

The mentioned motherboard(s) planned for the desktop and server systems aren't explicitly mentioned, but based upon the supported boards and the name being "D16", it's pretty safe to assume it's the ASUS KGPE-D16. You can still find this motherboard via NewEgg.com for $415 USD and $488 from Amazon.

It's tough to find these Opteron 6272 CPUs still in stock but they appear to go used on eBay for about $25 USD. Newer AMD or Intel CPUs/motherboards aren't supported by Libreboot due to the hardware depending upon binary-only firmware.

As for the graphics cards in their "high-end desktop", they are planning a "NVidia GTX 660Ti or 670." Going with a GeForce GTX 600/700 series is understandable given that it's the last generation of NVIDIA GPUs where Nouveau is able to support it without relying upon closed-source firmware from NVIDIA. Nouveau self-generates the needed microcode and so you have 100% open-source driver support. Even on the AMD side they have been relying upon closed-source firmware/microcode for many generations now. So the NVIDIA Kepler usage is nice, but I wouldn't consider the GTX 660 Ti or GTX 670 to be worthy of a "high-end" system at all in 2017, especially in a system that costs ~$4k+ USD. As you can see from my recent Nouveau benchmarks, from Kepler for a high-end system I would only consider the GTX 680 or GTX 780 Ti if wanting a fully libre system.

As with other niche free/libre hardware projects, the Libreboot D16 setup isn't cheap at all even with using off-the-shelf components. The Libreboot D16 desktop with the D16 motherboard, one Opteron 6272, 16GB of RAM, and the NVIDIA GTX 660 Ti / 670 is marked up at £3,450.00 (~$4188 USD) while the D16 server with 1 CPU and 16GB of RAM is £3,450.00 or up to £5,600.00 ($6800 USD) if wanting two of the Interlagos CPUs and 128GB of RAM. It's a tough purchase price surely for most Phoronix readers, especially given it's based upon ~5 year old hardware. If wanting to build the system yourself and flash Libreboot on the same motherboard, you can likely build the system for around $1k USD or less: $400~500 for the KGPE-D16 at the aforementioned links, the CPUs for $16+, a couple hundred or less depending upon how much DDR3 RDIMMs you want, etc. But if you have the money to spare and can't be bothered to try flashing Libreboot on the board and installing Debian, you can find out more details via the Libreboot D16 product page.
About The Author
Author picture

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

Related AMD News
Popular News