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How to choose an industrial motherboard?

carte mère industrielle
How to choose an industrial motherboard?

The motherboard is arguably one of the most important parts of a PC, if not the most important. It is considered the nerve center of the computer, and to which are connected the power button, links with the processor, power supply, and graphics card. Besides these different elements, the most important component of an industrial motherboard is the chipset. It is the device that determines the nature of the processor, and the type of memory supported by the PC, as well as the buses and standards supported by the device. Finally, it must also be said that certain features such as monitoring are dependent on specific elements making up the motherboard, as well as options present in the BIOS.

Considering this brief overview, it goes without saying that choosing a motherboard is undoubtedly tied to many factors, details, and parameters that are important to master. Likewise, is it opportune to understand the mode of operation of this component of the PC, in order to understand it as it should be, and to be able to easily choose a model that meets the user’s expectations.

Understand the operation and components of a motherboard

The term “motherboard” is easily understood, since this device alone defines almost all the possibilities of the system. There are essential elements for the proper functioning of a computer:

The chipset

Chipset
The chipset

Still called a set of components, the chipset carried a set of two or three chips. Today it refers to two or even a single microchip. However, in all cases, it has a close link with the processor, memory, and the various components of the card. We deduce that the chipset is designed for a certain type of processors. It should be noted, however, that over time, and developments in industrial computing, Intel and AMD are integrating more and more chipset functionality into the processor itself. This has many advantages, including integrating all the intelligence into a single chip and therefore addressing space issues for mobile devices.

The socket

Photo d'un socket
The socket

Also known as “processor socket”, it is a device through which processors attach to the motherboard, which device meets technological requirements. In practice, the more features a processor has, the more it needs to be connected on either side of the motherboard. Seen from this angle, the intrinsic link between the processor, its support, and the chipset is understandable speaks for itself.

Memory

Photo barette de mémoire vive ou barette de RAM
Memory

Like processor sockets, random access memory banks (also called RAM memory) have a physical format that differs depending on whether they are DDR, DDR2, DDR3 or DDR4. It is either the chipset or the processor that actually defines the type of memory supported, if the latter includes a memory controller.

The processor

Photo d'un processeur i9
The processor

Of course, all of this is functional and controlled thanks to the computing capacity provided by the processor. There are several brands of processor (CPU or processor in English), the best known to the general public are Intel and AMD. In the field of industry Intel is still the widely used brand.

From the range of Intel processors, select a suitable processor according to the following power and consumption ranges:

  • Intel Pentium – For older PCs or versions without ventilation
  • Intel Core Duo – For older PCs or versions without ventilation
  • Intel Celeron – For thin clients that require little power such as a Fanless PC for example
  • Intel Atom – For thin clients that require a little more power than a Celeron
  • Intel Core i3
  • Intel Core i5
  • Intel Core i7
  • Intel Core i9
  • Intel Xeon – For server architectures requiring calculations

Motherboard connectivity

The connectivity of the industrial motherboard is a factor that determines its functionality, but also its price. In general, motherboards have various inputs and outputs. With regard to the industrial field for hardened cards generally found the following type of connection:

  • Serial port
  • Ethernet port
  • Audio port
  • USB 2.0 port and USB 3.0 port
  • VGA / HDMI / DP port

When it comes to the Ethernet port, business cards usually have at least two.

This aims to be able to respond to issues:

  • Be able to connect the rugged PC to two separate networks such as the industrial network (OT) and the computer network (IT)
  • Have a backup port in case of failure of the first

On the more expensive variants, the connection is naturally more sophisticated. It includes, for example, an optical audio output, Ethernet ports, an eSATA connector, USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire interface, etc.

The different motherboard architectures

Photo des 3 formats de carte mère
The different motherboard architectures

There are two main motherboard formats:

  • The ATX format: Larger, this type of motherboard offers is larger, offers more expansion ports, and more memory banks in some cases.
  • The µATX format: Smaller, this motherboard format is more suited to compact cases, although they can easily be integrated into an ATX case.
  • The mini ITX format: Specially designed for the on-board or embeded sector.

In view of all these parameters, it seems obvious that the choice of an efficient motherboard must take into account several factors. Indeed, the offers in terms of processors are wide and diversified. This diversity is naturally transposed on the motherboards themselves, which thus offers numerous possibilities in the same range.

The supervision

The supervision of computer equipment in the professional and industrial field is essential. In order to monitor the state of its fleet and to be able to go as far as preventive maintenance, the equipment must be adapted to accommodate supervision tools.

With regard to industrial computing, the problem is generally to be able to trace the various information from the motherboard. While one of the market leaders in this field (IT) is Centreon (open source solution), it is generally not easy to monitor industrial computer hardware. Indeed a certain number of important metrics are not taken into account such as the speed of the fans, the temperature of the CPU etc …

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