Four CPUs aren't always greater than two
Appro's speedy, quad-Opteron 1U server has limited usesFollow @pvenezia
Yeah, it’s got a Hemi. Four of them, in fact.
Appro recently unveiled its 1U, quad-Opteron, 848-based 1142H server and I put it through its paces. The short story is this server moves like a much larger system. Although the server is packed with performance power, its limitations will likely relegate it to a fairly narrow audience.
In theory, 1U servers are destined for medium-duty tasks. They make good directory servers, DNS/DHCP servers, application and Web servers, but rarely do they move beyond those tasks. Internal expansion, or lack thereof, is usually the primary reason.
Add a few SAN HBAs into the mix, however, and a standard 1U, dual-CPU server can really stretch its legs. Even with two additional processors in the chassis, the Appro 1142H lacks relevance for many organizations, due to the server’s limited expansion possibilities.
Appro doesn’t target standard enterprise tasks with the 1142H; it looks straight at the HPC (high-performance computing) and clustering infrastructures. Given a standard 72-inch rack, and discounting potential network and power units, 42 rack units are available. Packed with standard 1U servers, this produces 84 processors and 672GB of RAM, assuming 16GB RAM limits on the servers. Naturally, that same rack populated with Appro 1142H servers doubles those figures. That’s 168 CPUs and 1.3TB of RAM. Substantial.
Too Hot to Handle?
Armed with four AMD Opteron 848 CPUs and a maximum of 32GB DDR400 RAM, the 1142H was designed for heavy workloads in tight quarters. Appro shipped the 1142H with RedHat Advanced Server 3.0 preinstalled, but I had no problems reinstalling that OS, nor did an installation of Suse Enterprise Server 9 create any difficulties.
Aesthetically the 1142H is nothing to write home about. The status lights on the front are easily identified, although Appro uses a piercing blue LED for the power indicator and a muted orange light for the unit ID indicator, the direct opposite of what you might expect.
I found the two-piece cover rather difficult to open and secured with rear thumbscrews, preventing easy access from the front of the rack. In fact, I had to exert significant force to open the front of the case. When finally open, however, the mainboard layout is simple and easy to work with.
The cooling system in the 1142H shows some necessary differences from standard 1U servers. There are only six fans present: three small fans in the front pushing air over the sole power supply, and three large side-pull fans mounted directly behind the drive bays.
The big fans pull air from the underside of the case and push air across the two closest processors, with one directed toward the rest of the mainboard. Pulling fresh air from underneath a server isn’t the best idea, but the sheer size of the Tyan S4882 mainboard in the 1142H is probably responsible.
The heat sinks on the CPUs are very low-profile, and come in pairs. Two sets of heat sinks cover the four Opteron 848 CPUs, each set joined by heat pipes to help direct heat away from the processor. Otherwise, there are few baffles inside the case to shape airflow. During my testing, I did note that there was some discoloration of the heat sinks.