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Marvell ESPRESSOBin Board with Gigabit Ethernet, SATA, mini PCIe, and USB 3.0 To Launch for $39 and Up (Crowdfunding)

September 23rd, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

I can often read people hoping for an inexpensive community board for network, storage and connectivity applications with high speed interface like SATA, multiple Gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.0 and/or mini PCIe, and that’s exactly what Globalscale Technologies is about to offer with their Marvell ARMADA 3700 based ESPRESSOBin development board to go for $39 and up via Kickstarter.

espressobinMarvell ESPRESSOBin board specifications:

  • SoC – Marvell Armada 3700LP (88F3720) dual core ARM Cortex A53 processor up to 1.2GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB DDR3 or optional 1GB DDR3
  • Storage – 1x SATA interface, 1x micro SD card slot with footprint for an optional 4GB EMMC
  • Network Connectivity
    • 1x Topaz Networking Switch
    • 2x GbE Ethernet LAN
    • 1x  Ethernet WAN
    • 1x MiniPCIe slot for Wireless/BLE periphereals
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x micro USB port
  • Expansion – 2x 46-pin GPIO headers for accessories and shields with I2C, GPIOs, PWM, UART, SPI, MMC, etc…
  • Misc – Reset button, JTAG interface
  • Power Supply – 12V DC jack or 5V via micro USB port
  • Power Consumption – Less than 1W thermal dissipation at 1 GHz
marvell-armada-3700-block-diagram

Marvell ARMADA 3700 Block Diagram

The board will run mainline Linux & U-boot, and the company will release Ubuntu, ArchLinux ARM, Debian, and OpenWrt firmware, with support for the Yocto Project as well. Some documentation and source code can be found on the Wiki in Github.

Typical applications include NAS, video camera monitor, plex media server, IoT gateway with wireless module and/or dongle with Zigbee, Bluetooth, , Zwave…. The board was first showcased at Computex 2016.

ESPRESSOBin will be launched on Kickstarter in the next few days. Keep in mind that the page is still in draft mode, so information is subject to change, but based on the details currently available, they plan to raise at least $25,000, and a $39 early bird pledge will be asked for the first boards (with 512MB RAM), with the price going up to $49 after (with 1GB RAM). There’s also a model with a wireless module and 12V power supply for $69, and “cluster” rewards with multiple boards. Delivery is scheduled for December 2016 for early bird rewards, and February 2017 for others. If you are interested in the board, and want to make sure you don’t miss out on the early bird pledge, you can register to be notified when the project launched in the KS page.

Thanks to Ray for the tip.

  1. Xiaohai Li
    September 23rd, 2016 at 16:46 | #1

    Finally someone turned the cheap Marvell Soho AP and NAS solution into a SBC. NXP is doing the same now with their ARM based networking SoC.
    Good to see there are mainline bootloader and kernel support.

  2. September 23rd, 2016 at 16:52 | #2

    @Xiaohai Li
    Are you talking about NXP QorIQ LS1023A/LS1043A? I can’t find (or remember) any low cost boards based on those.

  3. September 23rd, 2016 at 16:56 | #3
  4. 2mike
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:14 | #4

    “…Typical applications include NAS ” ???
    NAS with 1 (one) HDD 🙂 lol
    may be DLNA ?

  5. Benjamin
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:15 | #5

    hopefully someone cuts two ethernet ports and mpcie to bring the price down to something like 30$

  6. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:23 | #6

    ‘Topaz switch with 3xGB ethernet’ sounds not that promising. I thought we would talk about WAN using one SERDES lane to the SoC and the 88E6141 (the 2 LAN ports are behind) another? What’s true?

  7. 2mike
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:25 | #7

    on the Marvell ARMADA 3700 Block Diagram
    i see block ” DMA & RAID 5/6 Acceleration Engines”
    ok, where another SATA or SAS 🙂
    “Acceleration Engines” with one HDD 🙂 lol

  8. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:29 | #8

    @2mike
    USB3.0 with the older Marvell ARMADA 38x (Cortex-A9) is already amazingly fast: 255MB/s means you can attach 3 fast HDDs and still don’t get bottlenecked that much (it’s GbE anyway): http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1925-some-storage-benchmarks-on-sbcs/?p=15265

    And you can always turn the mPCIe slot into mSATA and use a mechanical converter to attach a normal SATA disk. There exist also mPCIe cards with 2 SATA ports and so on. This thingie as a NAS baseboard is just great. Also ARMv8 virtualization features available (but with 512MiB not that useful though)

  9. TLS
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:51 | #9

    @2mike
    This is a development board, it would be easy to use a PCIe based SATA controller to make a NAS out of this. Or you can use a cheap port multiplier.

  10. TLS
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:56 | #10

    @tkaiser
    It seems like there’s an RGMII interface that’s not part of the SERDES, so maybe they’re using that with a PHY for one port?

    I’m curious as to how this is wired, as it doesn’t make sense. The board has more things that what should be possible.

  11. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 18:57 | #11

    @TLS
    You can also turn the mPCIe slot into (m)SATA by defining the SERDES lanes differently (mSATA to SATA requires then just a small mechanical converter). I tested one cheap (and rather crappy/slow) SATA port multiplier with older ARMADA 38x SoC and fortunately it didn’t work (link above — awaits Jean-Luc’s moderation) but I would assume the SoC will support Marvell’s one quality PMs (like 88SM97xx).

  12. 2mike
    September 23rd, 2016 at 19:08 | #12

    @TLS
    1x MiniPCIe slot for Wireless/BLE periphereals = not SATA, not storage , only low speed data 🙁
    but ok, even if you put there SATA = 2 drive at different speeds is a bad thing, it is not RAID 5/6 anyway 🙂

  13. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 19:34 | #13

    @2mike
    Please do a google search for Marvell_88SM97xx_PB-03_product_brief.pdf to get the idea why the SoC has a RAID5/6 hardware engine.

    I personally would never ever again trust in any hardware RAID implementation unless I have at least one spare part lying aroung (RAID controller being a single point of failure is something people only understand once the controller died and all the data is instantly gone). Also the whole idea of added redundancy gets a bit weird when the host can not rely on RAM contents (no ECC).

    As already said: With Marvell SoCs you can turn mPCIe into mSATA (SERDES voodoo), you can use 2 port SATA host controllers in the mPCIe slot, you can do a lot of fancy stuff. But to be honest: I don’t need business continuity at home (the R in RAID) and if I would use RAID here then only btrfs’ RAID-1 since then a disk can die and also the board can die since my RAID will work on any Linux host in the world that runs a kernel recent enough (BTDT, HDDs in USB enclosures, Linux running inside VirtualBox inside OS X)

  14. Bogolisk
    September 23rd, 2016 at 19:47 | #14

    I think marvell sata usually supports port-multiplier. Also, max 1GB of RAM is too little for a gigabit router.

  15. Nobody of Import
    September 23rd, 2016 at 19:51 | #15

    @Xiaohai Li
    That was my take as well. Took ’em long enough. They had credible parts for this for a while.

  16. pug_ster
    September 23rd, 2016 at 20:10 | #16

    Performance of ARM based NAS is not as good compared to intel ones. Quad or even dual based cores atom nases smoke this one.

  17. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 20:19 | #17

    @pug_ster
    LOL, sure if you compare with 5 year old 800 MHz single core SoCs. But please don’t tell this my ARMADA A388 based board (and the one we’re talking here about is ‘a bit’ faster)

  18. TLS
    September 23rd, 2016 at 20:41 | #18

    @Bogolisk
    Huh what? Most consumer routers have 256-512MB, in fact, I can’t think of a single ARM based consumer router that has more than 512MB.

  19. willmore
    September 23rd, 2016 at 20:55 | #19

    Wishful thinking: if the Soc uses 2.5GigE to the onboard switch, then those three GigE ports might be a bit more useful.

  20. Ian Tester
    September 23rd, 2016 at 21:04 | #20

    Looks alright, but the amount of RAM is a concern. My >2yo Cubietruck has 2GB of RAM (and native GigE + SATA). Why are ARM boards still coming out with 1 GB or less, especially when they’re 64-bit and no longer have the 4 GB limit?

  21. RK
    September 23rd, 2016 at 21:06 | #21

    Perfect. Nothing else to say.

  22. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 21:15 | #22

    @Ian Tester
    The 2GB of your Cubietruck doesn’t help, the recent Marvell’s are magnitudes faster since ‘made for the job’ (and all their recent ARMv8 variants also support Open Data Plane (ODP) so in best cases the CPU just instructs the special engines to push packets around at maximum speed with minimum CPU utilization).

    Huge amounts of RAM for what? Sure, caches might be nice for NAS use cases but to be honest: If you use storage that is fast enough there’s no need for large buffers (different with Cubietruck since there the 2GB really help since A20 has a pretty slow SATA write implementation). Any maybe Marvell engineers visited http://www.linuxatemyram.com just recently 😉

    Just kidding, I would also love to see more DRAM here since even with just 2 CPU cores virtualization would be nice.

  23. Ray Knight
    September 23rd, 2016 at 21:30 | #23

    Rewards chart on the draft page shows all reward levels above $39 include 1 GB DDR3!

  24. tkaiser
    September 23rd, 2016 at 21:32 | #24

    @TLS
    Oops, just looked through ‘marvell_embedded_processors_psg.pdf’. Seems I’ve been wrong and with this SoC mPCIe is really just PCI 2.0 x1 and can not be turned into SATA ‘the usual way’. Let’s hope Globalscale comes up with some clarifications.

  25. PoV
    September 24th, 2016 at 02:30 | #25

    Yeah, as @tkaiser pointed out if you have an old ARM NAS (Synology, QNap), It’s probably an ARMv5, which has terrible performance. Even the ARMv6 is bad (Raspberry Pi A/B/A+/B+/Zero). ARMv7’s however are good (which cover most modern SBCs), and these are ARMv8 (potentially great once all the software is upgraded to support 64bit ARM).

  26. September 24th, 2016 at 07:23 | #26

    For those looking at setting up a ARM based NAS using a SBC like this, this is an interesting option:

    http://www.addonics.com/products/ad5hpmreu.php

    It’s a 5 port multiplier that supports JBOD, RAID 0,1,3 & 5. It can be accessed through USB 3.0 or eSATA. Reviews on amazon and other places seem pretty positive.

  27. Nightseas
    September 24th, 2016 at 08:37 | #27

    @cnxsoft
    Yeah, I only meant the same solution.
    And you are right, as the NXP guys themselves said, they were not good at costdown.

  28. Fan
    September 24th, 2016 at 10:09 | #28

    what’s the “Topaz Networking Switch”?

  29. September 24th, 2016 at 11:03 | #29

    @Fan
    You can check the block diagram @ https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/assets/013/766/555/2aab763bbcfc9eae7bb373252239ffcf_original.png?w=680&fit=max&v=1474066251&auto=format&lossless=true&s=cd737fe4a450910acc81d9c531a13bb7

    The switch part number is 88E6141. A press release reads “Marvell’s 88E6141 GE switch that supports 2.5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) uplink, and Marvell’s advanced Avastar® Wi-Fi 11AC, Bluetooth and 802.15.4 connectivity solution”.

  30. mdel
    September 24th, 2016 at 14:57 | #30

    i don’t see any battery power supply interface, i don’t understand why those custom board designs follow plain basic feature rules.

    @tkaiser
    how would you rate that cpu in a vpn context, pretty weak i guess ?

  31. tkaiser
    September 24th, 2016 at 17:50 | #31

    @mdel
    Regarding VPN: Marvell SoCs support CESA (crypto extensions, check status with Turris Omnia — the Turris folks wanted to make the crpyto stuff fully available from OpenWRT/Linux to be used for exactly that: accelerating VPN) and it’s ARMv8 (did not check whether crypto features are available).

    Anyway: In case all 3 GbE ports are behind the switch for me the only operation mode possible is to use another NIC for WAN access: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/549-banana-pi-r-as-router/?p=15959

    A really great idea is to use a cheap H3 board connected to the USB 2.0 port using g_ether module (USB Ethernet gadget) and doing firewall and VPN stuff there (a NanoPi M1 or NEO can also be powered though the Micro USB OTG port and this way you get a quad-core Ethernet dongle ready for offloading crypto stuff to the ‘dongle’)

  32. Harley
    September 26th, 2016 at 15:12 | #32

    It is so sad that pfSense (FreeBSD based) open source firewall does not support ARMv8/AArch64.

    FreeNAS (which also is FreeBSD based) on this could be nice too if not for ARMv8/AArch64.

    This hardware could be great for either or of two two as inexpensive firewall or NAS.

    Don’t understand why pfSense + FreeNAS doesn’t support ARMv8/AArch64 when FreeBSD do?

  33. TLS
    September 30th, 2016 at 01:06 | #33

    Ok, found this https://raw.githubusercontent.com/wiki/MarvellEmbeddedProcessors/main/images/arlp/community_board_block_diagram.png

    Turns out they’re using the RGMII interface which is connected to the switch, so none of the SERDES lanes are used for the Ethernet on this board and that explains how they managed to get it all working.

  34. tkaiser
    September 30th, 2016 at 01:20 | #34

    @TLS
    There on Github is the same block diagram available as PDF and also a ‘ESPRESSObin-Quick-Start-Guide-160812A.pdf’. Both interesting or lets better say answering all questions (showing examples with SATA port multiplier, different boot modes/media used and so on). Since both ‘WAN’ and ‘LAN’ ports are behind the Topaz switch I wonder how both are separated (VLANs)?

    At least this will be the first thing I’ll test when the device arrives next year: Does the switch bridges WAN and LAN ports when the device is bricked (or not already booted) or not. If switch ports are brought up connected on network layer 2 I will add a cheap H3 device to the USB2 port as ‘firewall/VPN/Ethernet dongle’ 🙂

  35. October 2nd, 2016 at 22:57 | #35

    Hey guys,

    this site was the first to release news on this campaign so congrats to the editor. We took some of your feedback in the campaign which just went live. Thanks to the viewers and the article!

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/874883570/marvell-espressobin-board

  36. Lieutenant Colonel Olivier South
    October 3rd, 2016 at 09:09 | #36

    It would seem that this project intends to lure in people with reasonable pledge amounts required for associated rewards but then exploit pledgers on the shipping costs USD 30 for most countries and even USD 50 for some European countries.

    Lots of negative feedback from people about this fee on the “Comments” section of the site, all saying that at these shipping prices (even from the China distribution site to deliver to Hong Kong) they are nor prepared to back the project.

    Perhaps the managers of the project should have considered not artificially low pledge amounts and realistic shipping charges.

  37. Harley
    October 7th, 2016 at 16:33 | #37

    Hard to reach the people working at the company behind this ESPRESSOBin boards so I will post this as an open letter:

    Hello makers of the ESPRESSOBin boards! I want to plead to you to please urgently try to make contact with the people behind the pfSense project about adding their support to your Marvell ESPRESSOBin Board

    If you could donate/gift a bunch of your ESPRESSOBin boards to the pfSense project then they could add their support which would benifit your company a lot too.

    The owner behind the company that makes pfSense (the worlds most popular open source firewall/router software) is actually already one of your backers on Kickstarter.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/659532992

    Please contact Jim Thompson (a.k.a. Hacker S. Thompson on Kickstarter) to talk about a collaboration between your company and the pfSense project!

    Marvell ESPRESSOBin Board would be perfect hardware for the pfSense open source firewall/router software, and your board could be the first ARM board they support.

    https://pfsense.org

    There is in addition an competing fork of OPNsense software/project called OPNsense which also might be a good idea for you to support as well by donating hardware to.

    https://opnsense.org

    Also, since pfSense (and OPNsense) is based on the FreeBSD operating-system just like the popular FreeNAS open source NAS software you could get another project working on FreeBSD (BSD) support for board.

    So if you do the same for the FreeNAS project and donate/gift a bunch of your boards to their developers then you would have two very popular project supporting your hardware.

    http://www.freenas.org

    If you could later say in your marketing material that your board supports both pfSense and FreeNAS then I am willing to bet that you will sell more than ten (10) times and many board as you would without having the support from those projects.

  38. tkaiser
    October 7th, 2016 at 17:52 | #38

    @Harley
    While I would also love to see FreeBSD on recent Marvell ARMADA SoCs (especially 38x) I fear I have to disagree regarding the use of both pfSense (my favourite firewall!) and FreeNAS (my favourite NAS ‘appliance’ even if have to go own ways for share configuration) on the ESPRESSOBin.

    In my eyes for pfSense separate NICs are mandatory. On the ESPRESSOBin all 3 GbE ports are connected to the Topaz switch which is connected upstream to the SoC with 2.5GbE. The most important question is whether the switch brings up its ports interconnected at layer 2 before or after the MDIO configuration takes places. In case the device is bricked and the switch acts as… a switch then it’s a joke to rely on such a device to separate different networks (only chance: add as many USB-Ethernet adapters as needed).

    For FreeNAS (or lets better say ZFS/raidz) ECC DRAM should be preferred. FreeNAS/ZFS/raidz is about data integrity. Without ECC DRAM you should at least forget to run unattended scrubs. And to use raidz in a reasonable way a PM would’ve to be added which then might act as single point of failure. I would prefer having separate real SATA ports.

    As already outlined above: When I get the ESPRESSOBin into my hands (will either back it when shipping costs decrease or ask Globalscale for Armbian dev samples) the first thing I’ll explore is to use a cheap H3 device like NanoPi NEO ($7.99) as intelligent quad-core USB-Ethernet dongle which could run also a firewall or terminate VPNs.

    And that’s something where I would love to see pfSense being available. FreeBSD support for H3 devices is already pretty mature and such a cheap H3 device could use its Micro USB connector to be powered by something like the ESPRESSOBin while also providing an Ethernet port through USB (USB Ethernet gadget) but I fear FreeBSD currently does not support USB Gadgets (coming from Android and providing mass storage, serial, Ethernet, … emulation through a normal USB cable to the OTG port). At least I feel better having my NAS separated from my Firewall/VPN endpoints.

  39. Cord
    October 10th, 2016 at 11:29 | #39

    @cnxsoft
    These are not publicly documented yet. That’s going to be a problem long-term.

    See https://www.kernel.org/doc/readme/Documentation-arm-Marvell-README for the known, documented Marvell chips.

  40. October 17th, 2016 at 13:29 | #40

    The international shipping costs are now a flat $23

  41. Fossxplorer
    November 20th, 2016 at 21:54 | #41

    globalscaletechnologies please fix your crappy slow ASPX shopping cart!
    You can’t even change shipping addresses.

  42. Fossxplorer
    November 20th, 2016 at 21:58 | #42

    Too bad we have to pay ~ 50% of the product price to shipping. Total seems likẽ $75 delivered Europe.

    Maybe it’s better to go together and buy multiple? Armbian devs should get couple of these donated IMO.

  43. tkaiser
    April 24th, 2017 at 01:13 | #43

    @Fossxplorer
    Now the 1GB variant is available for pre-order on Amazon (US) so I hope GlobalScale and Amazon negotiate something so that it will be available to the rest of the world too soon for a similar price ($50).

    On the software side everything progresses nicely: forum.armbian.com/index.php?/topic/4089-chosen_kernel-vs-resulting-kernel-package-deb-name-mismatch/&do=findComment&comment=30116

    So it’s just a few days until we can also generate an automated OpenMediaVault build for ESPRESSOBin since I added the necessary steps in a generic way to Armbian’s build system within the last weeks which means as soon as Armbian supports a new board, a few minutes later there’s also an OMV build available for it 🙂

  44. Gabe
    July 4th, 2017 at 14:42 | #44

    Are there any european distributors for espressobin?

  45. mdel
    July 8th, 2017 at 18:46 | #45

    tkaiser :
    Regarding VPN: Marvell SoCs support CESA (crypto extensions, check status with Turris Omnia — the Turris folks wanted to make the crpyto stuff fully available from OpenWRT/Linux to be used for exactly that: accelerating VPN) and it’s ARMv8 (did not check whether crypto features are available).

    i was taking a new look at this board and unfortunately i can’t find any mention of cesa in Marvel 3700 docs.
    Also no sign of cesa or crypto in the dts files so i guess i should assume the hardware block is simply ignored at the moment ?

    http://elixir.free-electrons.com/linux/latest/source/arch/arm64/boot/dts/marvell/armada-37xx.dtsi

    Not sure what turris is doing exactly for mainling marvell socs (they use an armada 385 which has a cesa driver) but free-electrons is working on that, i still have to investigate their wip as the armada 3700 is being added.

    The “good” news is that from what i could see, the cesa block should be able to saturate a Gbe link with aes-128-cbc..
    Not sure if the higher armada 385 core clock speeds implies higher performance of the security block.

  46. RoganDawes
    October 3rd, 2017 at 13:34 | #46

    @tkaiser

    Did you ever test this to see whether the ports are bridged on bootup?

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