Interview with Appro: XtremeServers Way to Go!

You may have already noticed that Appro Company is actively promoting its new XtremeServer products on our site and a few other online media. This is actually one of the reasons why we got interested in finding out what makes these server solutions so remarkable. Find all the details in our Interview!

by Anna Filatova
02/15/2006 | 07:58 PM

Appro launched 1U and 3U XtremeServers, next generation Opteron-based servers, designed to speed processing for high performance computing and computationally intensive business applications.  Both servers are available with Single-or Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors. These systems doubles the memory availability currently not supported in any other server platform making 4-way processor systems capable of handling up to 128GB - providing extreme memory scalability.

 

You may have already noticed that Appro Company is actively promoting its new XtremeServer products on our site and a few other online media. This is actually one of the reasons why we got interested in finding out what makes these server solutions so remarkable. Luckily Maria McLaughlin, Senior Marketing Manager of Appro International, agreed to answer some of our questions and shed some light on the new XtremeServer product line from Appro.

X-bit labs: Good afternoon, Maria. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. And as the topic of our today's discussion suggests, most of our questions refer to your newest product - XtremeServer solutions. Tell us please about XtremeServers. Are these products available?  If so, what are the details you could share with us at this time?

Appro XtremeServers are Appro's next generation 1U and 3U products. The availability of these new servers expands the XtremeServer product line Appro launched last year when it introduced XtremeBlade.  The new 1U and 3U XtremeServers provide innovated server technology designed to deliver outstanding performance and reliability with extreme memory scalability for compute and memory intensive applications.

It is important to say that these new XtremeServers are the first to be built on motherboards designed by Appro. One of the important features in these servers design is that our motherboard comes with eight memory slots per processor instead of only four slots supported by other motherboard manufactures.  This provides to our customers enormous system memory flexibility. The APPRO 1U XtremeServer allows up to 64GB of on-board memory while the APPRO 3U XtremeServer permits up to 128GB.  In addition, these servers configured with Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors deliver performance equal to servers with up to double the number of CPUs providing tremendous processing power and a perfect fit for compute and memory intensive applications. That is a new paradigm for server memory availability!

X-bit labs: How Appro XtremeServers differentiate from other server manufacturers and how can customers benefit from this?

From 1991 to year 2000, Appro was one of the largest OEM rack mount computer systems manufacturers in the United States. Appro’s background was to build and provide high quality systems for Tier 1 suppliers such as Cisco and Sun.  With that background, Appro Changed its business Model in the year 2000 and start offering its own line of Appro-branded high-density servers for the high performance computing markets offering commodity motherboards built in its own Appro’s backplane design, power supply and chassis. The Xtreme product line is the first where Appro is also dictating the design and feature sets of the motherboard as well.  Customers’ requirements are important to us and by keeping tight control over the design of the entire server gives us leading edge to deliver the feature set that customers’ require. Appro is accelerating the process to accommodate that demand.  By controlling the motherboard feature and revision as well as bio changes, make it easier for us to customize customers’ requirement delivering faster and innovative product to market.

X-bit labs:  What do you see as the markets that will most benefit from XtremeServers based on AMD Opteron processors and how this appeal to IT technology needs today?

Many markets will benefit. Most particularly industries in that are using applications which are memory intensive, either for financial simulation, Electronic Design simulation, Oil and Gas Seismic simulation, database, web serving, or any engineering applications which require maximum memory performance to improve their system efficiency and application performance for computers running multiple applications at the same time or compute-intensive multi-threaded applications will see an immediate benefit. The XtremeServers will increase memory performance for the traditional high-performance computing (HPC) and commercial applications while adding reliability and flexibility for the end-users with the best performance/value. In addition with AMD Direct Connect Architecture drastically improving the memory and I/O latency makes 64 bit applications their way into the marketplace. It provides a much easier way to address larger chunks of memory faster yielding huge performance boosts. However, even 32 bit applications will run faster and better in the new architecture. In the end we see this technology as being completely pervasive.

X-bit labs: Could you list the key features of the 1U XtremeServers and the 3U XtremeServers?

The two-way 1U XtremeServer features up to two Single- or Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors and eight DIMM sockets per CPU – providing up to 64GB of memory per server.  In addition, the APPRO 1U XtremeServer allows for up to 800GB SATA or 292GB SCSI hot-swappable drives, one PCI-X, and one PCI Express x16.

The Four-way 3U XtremeServer features up features up to four Single- or Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors and eight DIMM sockets per CPU – providing up to 128GB of memory per server, up to 2.4TB SATA or 876GB SCSI hot-swappable drives, up to three PCI-Express and three PCI-X slots, and redundant power supplies and fans. 

Appro offers a choice of Windows or Linux Operating Systems for its products. In addition, XtremeServers provide ServerDome remote management capabilities. Appro offers ServerDome management solution as part of Appro’s comprehensive server solution – the differentiator is that we include this in the price of the server, we do not charge extra for it like some other tier 1 OEMs.

X-bit labs: A very essential question: how easy is to service these server solutions?

XtremeServers provide cable-free design and they come ready to run. Also they are very simple to install, service and maintain. In addition, Appro offers a variety of customer support packages to include an account technician assigned to your account, access to service call management, customized services requests, equipment pre-configured before it is shipped for on-site repair, 24 x 7 x 365 onsite service, depot repair services, tracking of IT fixed assets to include defective part retrieval and certified help desk technicians.

X-bit labs: What would be the best operating system to use with the new XtremeServers?

Opteron is certified with most operating systems. You are going to get a great experience from Microsoft or Linux among others. Ultimately 64 bit-based operating systems will give you better performance than a 32 bit OS.

X-bit labs: What are the ideal applications to run in the 1U XtremeServers?

The 1U XtremeServer The APPRO 1U XtremeServer is a perfect foundation for supercomputing clusters for customers who require a flexible density-optimized 1U server.  Supported enterprise applications include Beowulf clusters, financial modeling, compute farms, digital rendering, seismic analysis, video streaming, web hosting, complex custom application development, or other applications requiring higher floating-point and memory bandwidth performance. 

X-bit labs: What are the ideal applications to run in the 3U XtremeServers?

The Appro 3U XtremeServers brings even more power, impressive memory scaling, and end-user flexibility. This server is ideal for large compute-intensive applications such as mechanical and engineering graphic simulation and rendering, computational fluid dynamics, scientific visualization, and digital content creation.

X-bit labs: How AMD collaborates with Appro in this product announcement? What part do they play and how will this collaboration benefit customers?

Appro XtremeServers offer an innovative solution by combining performance advantages of AMD Opteron processors, for example, AMD PowerNow!™ technology with Optimized Power Management (OPM) which provides performance-on-demand by dynamically adjusting performance based on CPU utilization – helping systems to run at optimum performance and power levels, reducing electricity costs while maximizing IT budget dollars. Appro XtremeServers are designed to provide that versatility and performance for all business sizes - from a multi-tiered web environment and High Performance Computing to a single-function application. In addition, AMD Dual-core delivers greater performance than the single-core offerings. The dual-core product requires additional memory bandwidth and benefits from reduced memory latency. Direct Connect Architecture meets these increasing demands much more efficiently than the front-side bus architecture of our competitor. This provides great performance advantage delivered by the Opteron solution.

AMD has provided us with the tools and technology to accelerate business results. Working together, Appro and AMD provide customer-focused innovations that our High-Performance and Enterprise computing customers' require.

X-bit labs: What market segments will be affected by these new products?

The segments would be grouped by Application rather than vertical, because the Scientific, Financial and Oil and Gas for example, share similar needs in HPC. Therefore, our market segment could be made up of Compute farms and Database applications. In addition, XtremeServers would play heavily in addressing the needs of a wide variety of applications that require compute and memory intensive performance while satisfying the needs for higher reliability.

X-bit labs: Where does Appro AMD Opteron based servers go from here?

We believe that AMD will continue to provide industry-leading solutions. AMD was the first to introduce a dual-core offering in the server market. AMD has already announced that they will be introducing multi-core products in the near future. In addition, they will be extending the Direct Connect Architecture to provide enhanced CPU cores, increased memory bandwidth and even higher speed IO bandwidth. We feel that with the availability of our next generation products: XtremeServers and XtremeBlade based on AMD Opteron processors, Appro will make a significant contribution to the High Performance and Enterprise computing markets. We look forward to make first shipments of these new products and continue to look ahead for more product innovations to meet and exceed our customer’s expectations.

X-bit labs: Where do you take components for servers? Does Appro manufacture them or purchase them from third-parties?

Appro uses open standard commodity based components. Appro’s headquarters is in Milpitas, CA with an R&D and manufacturing center in Asia and a sales and service office in Houston, Texas. Appro is a leading developer of high-performance, density-managed servers, storage subsystems, and high-end workstations for the high-performance and enterprise computing markets. Product innovation, strategic technology partnerships, and leadership in price/performance value contribute to Appro’s participation in the HPC space. Our strategic partnerships with AMD, Intel, Infiniband Consortium, Raytheon and Uniwide Technologies allow us to expand our product footprint and address the needs of different industry verticals. Appro has now over 10 years of experience with engineering talent to support the mechanical, electrical and driver development demands of HPC.

X-bit labs: Why Appro is offering maximum 4-processor with its Opteron XtremeBlade and XtremeServers, while all the other leading server manufacturers already provide 8-processor solutions? Could it be true that Appro positions its clysters for 8-way server market?

The reality is that 4-way processor servers are going mainstream. With AMD Dual-Core Processors availability, 4-way servers offer 8 CPU cores per server providing tremendous processing power for compute intensive applications. AMD soon will be introducing multi-core processors and will be also extending their Direct Connect Architecture to provide enhanced CPU cores, increased memory bandwidth and higher speed IO bandwidth. It only makes sense for server manufacturers to wait for multi-core processor availability. In short, the long-term trend in the market is to adopt standard technology as a way to not only drive down costs but also benefit from economies of scale. Increasingly, that standard in the hardware layer is x86-based (Intel and AMD) systems.

X-bit labs: What is the primary target market for the XtremeServers? I am sure our readers would be very much interested in learning more about the architectural organization of Appro clusters, too. For example, what bus do you use to connect the systems with one another? The reason I am asking, is because the leading manufacturers usually use FibreChannel, and I haven’t found any details about it on your site.

Appro’s XtremeServer line of products will benefit, in particular industries that requires compute intensive performance while satisfying the needs for higher reliability such as financial or Oil and Gas seismic simulation, database, web servers or engineering applications. Any compute-intensive multi-threaded applications will see an immediate benefit as well. In addition, Infiniband and PCI-Express technologies improve the memory and I/O latency. This is important as 64 bit applications make their way into the marketplace. In the end, we see this technology as being completely pervasive. Appro provides customer-focused innovations that our High-Performance and Enterprise computing customers' require. Appro current servers support PCI- X and PCI -Express on board. In addition, for high- speed interconnect options, our servers support copper Gigabit ports and Infiniband. We could install Fiber Channel card as well. Flexibility is the key. At Appro we take a vertical integrated approach to delivering every order, since testing the interoperability of the entire cluster is just as important as burning in each node. This also provides a whole new meaning to out of box experience.

X-bit labs: Of course, I would also like to ask you about how business is going in general for Appro. I would assume it is going pretty well, isn’t it? :)

Business is booming. With the availability of our new 1U and 3U XtremeServers, Appro is making a significant contribution to the High Performance and Enterprise computing markets. We look forward to continue to look ahead for more product innovations to meet and exceed our customer’s expectations.

X-bit labs: What platforms (processors) are the most popular these days?

Applications that require high bandwidth and low latency access to system memory benefit from Opteron technology, especially true for high performance cluster computing but also applicable to a large number of commercial applications as well.

Two-processor and four-processor platforms based upon Opteron technology provide more than the system memory bandwidth at lower latencies than current Xeon and Xeon MP based platforms. Also, Opteron technology allows memory and I/O resources to scale with additional processing power providing increased levels of system resources as computing needs increase. Combining resource scaling with Opteron's Hyper Transport technology allows for those system resources to be shared effectively across all processing units benefiting many multi-threaded applications and provides for high levels of scalability from UP to DP to a four-processor.

Additionally, customers who need to run existing 32-bit applications along with 64-bit applications can benefit from the simultaneous 32-bit and 64-bit computing capabilities of Opteron technology. In those environments, 32-bit application performance is not compromised. Also, applications that need large memory addressing such as those with large datasets (financial and scientific modeling applications) or must manage a large number of concurrent users or application threads such as large databases and data warehouse applications for solutions in customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and digital rights management (DRM) systems can benefit from Opteron's low latency memory architectures.

X-bit labs: What solution is the current top-selling Appro product?

Our top selling solution is the 3U Appro XtremeServer. The Appro 3U XtremeServer supports up to 4 AMD Opteron™ processors. The 128GB memory footprint enables most applications to run faster or support more users than other systems. The 3U XtremeServer combines AMD Dual-Core Opteron™ processor technology, excellent management and outstanding uptime features in an enterprise-class system ideal for large data center deployments. This server is the best performing x86 4-processor server in the industry. Dual-Core AMD Opteron™ processors enable a huge boost in performance. Depending on the application and environment, customers can expect to see anywhere from 15 to 65% performance improvement from single-core processors.

Appro XtremeServers take advantage of AMD Opteron technology, for example, AMD PowerNow! technology with Optimized Power Management (OPM) which provides performance-on-demand by dynamically adjusting performance based on CPU utilization – helping systems to run at optimum performance and power levels, reducing electricity costs while maximizing IT budget dollars. Appro XtremeServers are designed to provide that versatility and performance for all business sizes - from a multi-tiered web environment and High Performance Computing to a single-function application.

X-bit labs: Since we are directly involved into online business, I would greatly appreciate your advice. What server from your current product range you could recommend for a site like ours? At this time X-bit labs has close to 2 million unique readers and over 10 million page views a month. The software we use works with FreeBSD and Apache. We also actively use PHP and MySQL database. Could you please recommend a server solution for us at this time and explain why you think it would be the best choice for our needs?

Appro 1U XtremeServer is an ideal fit for X-bit labs. The two-way 1U XtremeServer offer a variety of configurations such as AMD Single/Dual-Core Opteron processors, up to 64GB of ECC 400 DDR per server, up to two SATA or SCSI hot-swappable drives,1 PCI-X and 1 PCI-Express slots and more. In addition, XtremeServers is packaged with ServerDome remote management, IPMI 2.0 compliant, and a choice of Windows or Linux Operating Systems. X-bit Labs can also take advantage of the AMD Opteron technology by using AMD PowerNow!™ technology with Optimized Power Management. The 1U XtremeServer is also perfect for customers looking for leading performance and management in a rack-optimized form factor. The 1U XtremeServer will increase compute and memory performance for any technical and enterprise web applications while adding reliability and flexibility making life much easier for X-bit labs system administrators.

X-bit labs: Thank you very much for your time, Maria. On behalf of X-bit labs team and readers I would like to wish Appro good luck in conquering the market and we look forward to seeing more exciting new solutions from you in the future.