TechMike’s Server Parts 101: What Is a Network Daughter Card (NDC) and Its Advantages?
If you’ve ever heard the term “Daughter Card” and were intrigued by such a seemingly curious term, no, it doesn’t mean your server is going to guilt you into letting her go to the concert with her boyfriend. Instead, it is the dedicated network card for your server that attaches directly to your server’s motherboard (versus a PCIe network card that would connect via a free PCIe slot).
Network Daughter Cards, or NDC’s, are removable and designed to offer flexibility with the network connectivity needs of your device, i.e., quad ethernet port or a mix of Ethernet and SFP slots, etc. Since servers have so many variable network requirements, it makes sense for manufacturers to offer this flexibility.
In this post, we’ll cover the advantages of using an NDC and some helpful considerations when selecting the NDC for your refurbished Dell server.
MOTHER-DAUGHTER ISSUES: Why is it called a Daughter Card anyway? In the simplest terms, a Daughter Card is any circuit board that connects to and augments the circuitry of the main system board – or motherboard. Hence, it is called a “Daughter Card” since it is a functional extension of the “Motherboard.”
Advantages and Considerations
Here are some key takeaways to understand about NDC’s:
- Not all Rack servers come with an integrated network port. Unlike desktops that have a native RJ-45/ethernet port, a server will often not have a native port fused to the system board. For example, R600, R700, and R800-series Dell server models do NOT have an integrated network port. You must use an NDC or PCIe network card if you want your machine to connect to a network.
- An NDC has a proprietary connector to the system board. In other words, a Dell NDC will only work with a Dell server, regardless of the manufacturer’s chip (Intel, Broadcom, etc.).
- An NDC keeps the PCIe slots free on your server for other cards and additions. The Dell server’s motherboard has the dedicated, proprietary slot for its NDC. Why use up a PCIe slot when Dell designed their servers to use a dedicated network card connected directly to the motherboard?
- If there is no NDC installed in a Dell server, on boot, the server will give an error that no network card is installed – even if there is a PCIe network card installed. This is true for both 12th and 13th generation Dell servers. Again, going with an NDC in your server is the more appropriate and reliable configuration.
- Dell 12th Gen NDC’s are compatible with Dell 12th and 13th Gen servers, but 13th Gen NDCs are NOT compatible with 12th Gen servers. In other words, in an unusual technical paradox, the NDC’s of 12th Gen Dell servers are forward compatible; but 13th gen NDCs are not backward compatible.
- Most Dell 14th Gen NDC’s are backward compatible with 13th gen servers. But it is best to confirm compatibility with one of our reps if you are buying a standalone NDC.
- When it comes to HPE servers: Gen 8 servers require an NDC for network connectivity while the G9 models have built-in 1GB RJ-45 ports and have the option for an NDC.
ROOM FOR DEBATE: While the terminology is not often used, a Dell PERC mini-RAID controller could be considered a Daughter Card since it connects to the motherboard with a proprietary connector the same way an NDC does.
More on Compatibility
We would be remiss not to mention that NDC compatibility is built into our Configure-to-Order generator. Any NDC listed with the Daughter Card Dropdown will be compatible with the server model.
NDC’s are a key feature of Enterprise Server architecture. The network requirements of these devices can vary greatly, so it makes sense for this flexibility and upgradability to be a core feature.
Unsure of what kind of your NDC you might need for your small business or HomeLab? Contact us at info@TechMikeNY.com, and one of our techs will happily walk you through it. That’s what we’re here for!