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June 2007
Volume 10 / Number 6
Nitty Gritty
Richard "Zippy" Grigonis

APPRO: From Slimline to HyperXtreme

By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis, Nitty Gritty

Although it was founded in Milpitas California by Daniel Kim "way back" in 1991, Yours Truly first noticed Appro International ( and the fine computing hardware they produced in the late 1990s, back in my days as Chief Technical Editor for the now-defunct Computer Telephony magazine. Specifically, I was walking around CT Expo 1999 in Los Angeles when I came across the best-designed 2U (3.5-inch) high, 19-inch wide rackmount "pizza box" I had ever seen. It was Appro's then-new Slimline series of computing platforms.

Appro's (news - alert) VP of Marketing of that era, Andrew Oh, then showed me the newest 2U model that was his favorite: The Model #APRE-2002HX-6, a 2U rackmount with a depth of 26 inches, so it could hold a full-size ATX motherboard. It came standard with Appro's 400 Watt redundant hot-swap power supplies. It even had room for four drive bays, two of which held SCA LVD SCSI hard drive housings, complete with a hot-swap backplane and metal carriers. Two riser cards provided expansion capability for two full-length PCI cards. The unit had two rather secure-looking "barn doors" that could lock the unit up. It was quite impressive machine, even by today's standards.

Indeed, I bestowed upon Appro a 1999 Product of the Year award for their Slimlines, for of all the 2U boxes on the market, Appro's appeared to have the finest craftsmanship and they had devoted considerable thought to positioning components within the "pizza box" form factor. The Slimlines were in sharp contrast to Appro's 7000HT Monolith which, as its name implies, was a hefty fault resilient rackmount that could hold 8, 14, 19 and 20 slot PCI/ISA passive backplanes, as well as 6 accessible 5.25-inch and 2 internal 3.5-inch drives. You could use split backplanes (thus dividing the box into up to 4 systems) or even AT or ATX motherboards. Appro was also noted at the time for its Intelligent Temperature Monitoring System (ITMS) that provided system status on system temperature, cooling fan, and power supplies via the RS-232 cable connected to a HyperText Terminal.

Today, Appro offers four categories of high performance equipment:

  • AMD and Intel-based blade clusters ("HyperBlades") yielding supercomputer performance for any immense database or application server.
  • Server products, from density-optimized multi-purpose servers to Blades for high-density clustering solutions (such as the 2U and 4U XtremeServers, and the 1U HyperServers)
  • High performance workstations for compute-intensive applications.
  • High reliability storage products (such as the 3U, 15-bay Appro AR 3015). Appro has partnered with Terrascale Technologies to offer turnkey server and clustered storage solutions.

Appro's little 1U HyperServers have maintained the "quality pizza box" tradition that I first saw back in the 1990s. Now, however, the pepperoni is spinning at warp speed, thanks to support for the Dual-Core Intel Xeon® processor 3000 and 5100 series and the new Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor 5300 series, thus bringing the immense power (3 times the memory bandwidth and 4 times the capacity) of multi-core processing to enterprise applications. Appro's 1U Dual Socket HyperServer cluster nodes may appear diminutive, but a 2-processor, Quad- Core machine yields 8 cores, processing so much data that it can keep busy a 10 Gbps dual-port Mellanox PCIe (PCI Express) InfiniBand Adapter running Platform Computing's Open Cluster Stack. (Note: The Platform Open Cluster Stack, or OCS, is an open source, standardsbased cluster software stack designed to help administrators efficiently deploy and manage high-performance Linuxbased computing clusters. It's related to the San Diego Supercomputer Center Cluster Toolkit for building stable, manageable, and scalable clusters.)

Appro HyperBlade servers also support the Intel Xeon processor 3000 series. These servers, targeted for HPC (High Performance Computing) environments, also offer two boards per chassis, which nearly cuts the chassis and rack infrastructure cost by 50%. The two socket HyperBlade server solution features one PCIe x8 slot enabling added I/O such as GbE (Gigabit Ethernet), InfiniBand, and SAS RAID cards with 4 DIMM slots (maximum 8 GB) of DDR2 533/667 MHz memory.

I guess the old adage is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Richard Grigonis is the Executive Editor of TMC's IP Communications Group. He has written about embedded computing, fault tolerant and "fault resilient" computing (a term he coined) for telecom since 1994.


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