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October 24, 2011

Q&A: Appro gets ready for 16-core AMD “Interlagos” processors

In the volatile high performance computing (HPC) market, vendor longevity is quite rare. However, Appro has not only endured, but continues to introduce innovative solutions. One of the company’s strengths is that while some vendors flashed into and out of existence by offering rigid solutions exclusively for the highest end of the market, Appro has tried to appeal to the medium to large-scale HPC market with a variety of workload configuration requirements.

In that tradition, Appro is preparing to launch its  next generation Xtreme-X™ Supercomputer and new server platforms based on the  upcoming AMD ”Interlagos” processor. This processor has been eagerly anticipated as it is ideally suited for HPC environments. Specifically, it is a 16-core processor based on AMD’s new “Bulldozer” architecture offering new instructions for HPC applications, significant memory enhancements, and the new Flex FP for 256-bit floating point processing, an innovation that allows for significant overall processor power savings when the Flex FP is not fully utilized.

HPCwire recently had a chance to talk about new solutions based on “Interlagos” and other HPC trends with Maria McLaughlinDirector of Marketing of Appro International Inc. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

HPCwire: Why Appro and why AMD Opteron™-powered servers?

McLaughlin: Appro offers innovative supercomputing solutions by combining the performance advantages of AMD Opteron processors such as higher core count, significant memory enhancements, and improved floating point processing with optimized power management features. Being on the forefront of system cooling and optimization, Appro offers many configuration options and having features such as performance-on-demand by dynamically adjusting performance based on CPU utilization – helps systems to run at optimum performance and power levels, reducing electricity costs while maximizing IT budget dollars. Appro platforms based on AMD ”Interlagos” processors will deliver greater performance per watt with improved memory bandwidth while reducing memory latency. AMD has been a great technology partner and has provided us with the tools and expertise to accelerate HPC business results. Working together, Appro and AMD provide customer-focused innovations that our High-Performance computing customers require.

HPCwire:  Many people in the industry are eager to see what the AMD “Interlagos” processors can offer. Where do things stand with the Appro Xtreme-X Supercomputer based on these processors?

McLaughlin: We’re on target for a Q4 launch with “Interlagos”-based systems. We’re actually pretty excited about the product, particularly with respect to some of the features that we’re going to enable. We started out Appro’s next generation Xtreme-X, with a certain feature set.  After gathering customer feedback on the design, we changed the features to address faster hybrid multi-core technologies with improved power and cooling, flexible Interconnect options with fast I/O bandwidth, superior HPC software stack integration with complementary Appro Cluster Engine™ (ACE) management suite, including capabilities such as job scheduling, revision control, and fault tolerance. Taken together, these features are very important to the HPC industry. As a result, we think that our next generation product will have a bigger impact than we originally anticipated. 

HPCwire: The AMD “Interlagos” processor offers some interesting innovations. How are you able to take full advantage of the processor’s capabilities?

McLaughlin:  The Appro Xtreme-X supercomputer will offer enhancements to match the new processor and future generations. To accomplish this, we made significant changes to the Xtreme-X architecture to complement the new AMD “Interlagos” processor. We looked at the overall platform including thermal, mechanical, and chassis cooling design, as well as various interconnects so we can continue to deliver on quality, value, and performance.

HPCwire: As we know, whenever a new processor is announced customers need more than just a spec sheet to understand how the processor will help their specific HPC applications. What’s been done to prepare the market for the AMD “Interlagos” processors?

McLaughlin: The AMD Seed program is the key. It is definitely important and critical for our industry. People want to kick the tires, especially when they are getting a lot more cores to make sure their applications can benefit and can reach a quicker ROI. Through the seed program, we’ve provided samples to customers and we also performed customer benchmark testing in Appro’s Houston and Milpitas facilities. In response to that, we already have customers lined up and more announcements will be made in the near future.

HPCwire: Can we talk about the Appro Xtreme-X Supercomputer and new servers based on “Interlagos”? What can we expect?

McLaughlin: The Appro next generation, server platforms and the Xtreme-X Supercomputer will increase memory performance for high-performance computing while adding reliability, high availability, and flexibility for the end-users with the best performance/value. In addition, the new AMD architecture drastically improves the memory and I/O latency. It provides a much easier way to address larger chunks of memory faster, yielding huge performance boosts.

HPCwire: Explain a bit about why Xtreme-X Supercomputer is an important product line?

McLaughlin: HPC is a growing market and today’s customers can no longer compete or survive without cutting-edge supercomputing technologies. Appro is planning to embrace the HPC challenge and continue to provide more value added features to our current generation with additional cutting-edge technologies to address critical HPC workload categories in capacity, hybrid, data-intensive and capability computing. The new design will significantly accelerate the HPC world while promoting US innovation and technology competitiveness at a lower total cost of ownership.

HPCwire: Who will benefit from Appro Xtreme-X Supercomputer and server platforms based on AMD Opteron™ processors?

McLaughlin: Many industries will benefit, in particular industries that are using memory-intensive applications, such as those used in scientific research and engineering.  Compute-intensive multi-threaded applications will also see an immediate benefit.

HPCwire: When will the Appro Xtreme-X Supercomputer be launched? And will AMD “Interlagos” processors be widely available to meet market demands?

McLaughlin: As a Premier partner of AMD, the plan is to announce that Appro will support the upcoming AMD ”Interlagos”  for the next generation server platforms including the new Xtreme-X Supercomputer. The new Appro Xtreme-X supercomputer will be widely available subsequent to AMD’s launch announcement, most likely early Q1/2012 aligning with Appro’s volume production schedule.

HPCwire: Can you provide more info on the HPC Software Stack that Appro provides and how it integrates as part of the Appro Xtreme-X system?

McLaughlin: The Appro Xtreme-X Supercomputer offers a software suite designed to eliminate the complexity of managing an HPC cluster while providing all of the tools necessary to run medium to large, complex applications. The Appro HPC Software Stack offers a supported version of the Grid Engine Batch Scheduler and is compatible with most open source and commercial compilers, tools, schedulers, and libraries. Appro Cluster Engine™ (ACE), lights-out management suite is also part of the Appro Software Stack and is tightly integrated with the Appro Xtreme-X system. This software package includes System Control Manager for cluster management graphical user interface (GUI) that is intuitive and easy-to-use. The ACE management GUI connects directly to the ACE Daemon on the Management Server and can be executed on any Windows, Linux, or Mac-based system. The management modules include network, server, cluster, and storage management. It features job scheduling, fail-over, load balancing and revision control capabilities with a robust network boot, diskless nodes to achieve maximum reliability, performance, and high availability.

HPCwire: What should we expect right after Appro’s product launch?  

McLaughlin: Appro will continue to deliver cutting-edge technology for HPC solutions to our customers. We feel that the next generation, Xtreme-X Supercomputer will make a higher impact on the HPC market since it addresses most of our customers’ key requirements. Appro will also offer a new line of rack-mount server solutions based on the new AMD Opteron processors as well as hybrid processor technologies to be available in early Q1/2012. We are very proud of our current Xtreme-X Supercomputer accomplishments and we look forward to a great 2012 start.  Additionally, Appro will further enhance our overall HPC solution portfolio offerings for new technology demands and opportunities.