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Thunderbolt 3 for Supermicro X11SPA-TF?

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Hello people, this is my first post here. Happy to see such a great community. 

For quite some time I've been searching for a good platform to create a powerful, and most importantly, future-proof Intel-based workstation. It would seem that the best motherboard I've found is the Supermicro X11SPA-T/F for a number of factors. It has a very powerful Intel C621 chipset, supports the brand new LGA 3647 socket (therefore I presume it will probably last quite crisp for a long time), has 7 PCIE 3.0 slots, 10Gb Ethernet and bunch of other stuff that is important for me. 
However, one of the absolutely mandatory prerequisite for me is the Thunderbolt 3 connection. While this board has a lot of USB ports, coupled with many different headers, the TB3 is absent. I work with audio and music production therefore TB3 is absolutely the very important thing as it is used for top tier audio interfaces. 
I realise that there is a way - Thunderbolt 3 Add-in cards.
Now, I'm not a true nerd and the expert but from what I've learned, these cards require a specific Thunderbolt Header that typically appear as 5-pin or 8-pin header somewhere below PCIE slots. Furthermore, it would seem that motherboard makers design specific TB3 AICs to fit with their motherboards but not with other brands which doubles the problem. I heard opinions that for example Gigabyte's TB3 AIC doesn't work on an ASUS motherboard and vice-versa. Supermicro on the other hand, as far as I know, doesn't even manufacture any TB3 AIC at the moment. They used to make a TB2 card. 
I've found that on the specific Supermicro board that I mentioned above there's something called "General Purpose Input / Output Header". Does anyone have any knowledge about this GPIO connector? I couldn't find much info about it. Supermicro here claims their TB2 AIC uses this GPIO header for presumably the same purpose as the other brands would use the TB3 Header. 

At this point I'm a little bit confused. I've even seen guys put Gigabyte's TB3 AIC into an old Mac Pro 5.1 and that makes me wonder how does it really work with this whole compatibility issue between certain motherboards from one maker and an AIC from other company? 

So my question is - does anyone know if it would be somehow possible to use Gigabyte's TB3 AIC with the Supermicro Motherboard using the supermicro's GPIO header instead of TB header that would appear on Gigabyte's motherboard? 

If this is all not gonna work I have an alternative motherboard - the ASUS Pro WS C621-64L SAGE/10G. I already know it has the proper Thunderbolt Header and Asus manufactures the TB3 AICs for it. The problem is that it only has 5 PCIE slots compared to 7 on Supermicro (however that's not a particularly heavy downside for an Audio workstation) but it is also significantly more expensive. The heavy downside is actually that it has only one NVMe M.2 slot on the Asus motherboard compared to four M.2 on Supermicro. So for me it is plainly less for more if I'm not missing something. 

So, what do you people think about it?

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I do not see a Thunderbolt header in the documentation of the ASUS Pro WS C621-64L SAGE/10G .  I noticed some re-sellers list Thunderbolt support for this motherboard but ASUS.com does not. 


I have tried using Thunderbolt add-in cards on motherboards that were not made to support them and it's not a smooth experience.  Productivity will suffer if you choose this kind of setup.  egpu.io and avid messageboards are good sources of info on thunderbolt and audio workstation topics.  (I am not affiliated with either one).



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Posted · Original PosterOP

Hey, thanks a lot for your reply. I can't say why I was so sure about the Thunderbolt header on this motherboard but I thought I saw it anyway you're right, I checked once again, there's nothing about it on the data sheet and looking at the photos I couldn't see the header on the board. Sigh. 

Thanks for sharing your experience. Could you describe what kind of issues did you encounter? 
Looks like I have to wait for Supermicro to issue their proper TB3 add-in card.

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