Appro Offering AMD's Opteron for HPC

Appro is adding AMD's quad-core Opteron to its Xtreme-X Supercomputer series as it expands its high-performance computer offerings.

Appro is rolling out a new system that uses the latest quad-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices, part of an effort to expand its line of supercomputers and high-performance computer clusters.

The Xtreme-X2, which the Milpitas, Calif., company will officially announced Feb. 26, is a two-socket HPC (high-performance computer) blade system that uses AMD's quad-core Opteron processors. In November, Appro announced the X1 system, which uses Intel's quad-core Xeon chips.

Appro's announcement comes at a time when several vendors are expected to announce new systems built around AMD's much maligned quad-core processors, which were delayed after the company reported a bug that required a BIOS patch. John Lee, vice president of Appro's Advanced Technology Solutions Group, told eWEEK that his company would supply customers with the latest Opteron chips that do not contain the errata AMD reported in December.

Even with the problems associated with quad-core processors, Lee said the HPC market still clamors for the performance of AMD processors. The X2 system offers AMD's Opteron 8347 model-1.9GHz clock speed, 512KB of L2 cache per core and a shared 2MB of L3 cache-for a four-way configuration, and the Opteron 2347, which also has a 1.9GHz clock speed, for two-way configurations.

"In the high-performance computer market, AMD still tends to dominate the space," Lee said. "In the last two-and-a-half years, Intel has made some real headway with its processors, but our customers are looking for chips with a lot of memory bandwidth and AMD still comes out on top in that category."

Appro is expanding its HPC footprint at a time when the market for these types of massive machines continues to grow. A report released by IDC Feb. 21 found that the HPC market grew 15 percent in 2007, with revenues topping $11 billion.

By 2011, the market is expected to reach $15 billion and IDC found that this segment of the market might be insulated from the slowing U.S. economy since budget cycles for HPC are longer and the machines remain essential parts of government and academic institutions.

The X2 system is a 44U (77-inch) rack that contains 128 nodes that support up to 512 quad-core Opteron processors. The system offers up to 4TB of memory, hot swappable blades, redundant cooling fans and Infiniband connections.

When fully configured, the X2 system offers a performance of up to 4.5 teraflops or 4.5 trillion calculations per second.

The type of HPC clusters that Appro is now designing use commodity parts-Intel and AMD x86 chips-which allow the company to build less expensive but scalable supercomputers and clusters that can meet the needs of both enterprise and midmarket companies.

Although Appro, along with other heavyweight contenders such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and SGI, is looking to explore ways to bring supercomputers into the enterprise, it still competes for hefty government contracts and recently won a contract to build three HPC clusters for U.S. Department of Energy.

While Lee did not have a specific base price for the Xtreme-X2 system, he did note that the prices usually fluctuate between $500,000 and $1 million depending on the specific configurations that a customer requests.