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Core blimey! 10,000 per rack in startup's cloud-in-a-box

Scale-out servers packaged in ickle-wickle cases

+Comment Say hello to hyperdense server and NVMe storage startup Aparna Systems and its Cloud-in-a-Box system.

Originally named Turbostor and founded in February 2013, the company has emerged from stealth with the Orca µCloud, a 4U enclosure that converges compute, storage and networking, and offers, Aparna claims, up to 10,000 cores in a rack. The 4015 version has 15 µServers and the 4060 has up to 60. So, have ten of these in a 42U rack and that means 1,000 cores per 4U 4060 box.

The Orca µServer is packaged in a box or cartridge-sized like a 3.5-inch hard disk drive, draws less than 75 watts, and comes in two variants: Oserv8 with 8-core Broadwell Xeons, and Oserv16 with 16-core ones.


Oserv16 µServer

Both have DDR DRAM, and dual SATA or NVME SSDs. We're told "storage IO is non-blocking based on its support for both SATA at 12Gbps (6Gbps per SSD) and NVMe at 64Gbps (32Gbps per SSD), with latencies of 100 microseconds (µs) and 10µs, respectively."

The µCloud systems enclosure is NEBS-compliant and features a fully fault-tolerant, non-stop, non-blocking performance, with:

  • 5 "nines" availability
  • Dual, hot-swappable AC/DC power supplies
  • GPS clock to support applications that require precise timing
  • Dual, hot-swap active/active switches that deliver 20Gbps per µServer
  • Aggregate uplink capacity of 640Gbps (2 switches x 8 ports at 40 Gbps each)

It can be used as a bare-metal system or for running virtualized or containerized environments.


Orca µCloud 4060

Aparna claims its compact convergence of compute, storage and networking, when compared to existing clusters made from rack-level systems or blade servers, can mean an up to 40 per cent CAPEX and OPEX saving, lower space needs and an electricity draw reduction of up to 80 per cent.

It's marketing the Orca systems to service providers and enterprises for mission-critical applications from the edge to the core. The startup is casting its net far and wide, saying Orca's "open software architecture and non-stop high performance make the Cloud-in-a-Box suitable for virtually any networking, computing or storage application, including fog and multi-access edge computing, databases, data analytics, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning."

CEO Sam Mathan says he expects "the µCloud systems [to be] especially popular for edge computing and aggregation applications. Of course, these same capabilities are also important in the enterprise, where the ability to scale compute and storage resources is often constrained by available data centre space and power."

Other execs are CTO Alex Henderson, a co-founder of Turbostor in March 2013, as was Ramana Vakkalagadda, director for software engineering.

Aparna investors include:

  • Divergent Venture Partners
  • Vish Mishra, Clearstone Partners
  • Sam Mathan
  • Kumar Malavalli, Brocade founder
  • Sam Srinivasan, Former Cirrus Logic CFO

We don't know the funding amounts but Divergent reportedly put in $500,000.


Orca systems and server table

Reg comment

This hopeful killer whale of servers seems to rely on innovative packaging to produce its core density, high per-server bandwidth and precise event timing. It must also have ferociously efficient cooling technology in its 4060 version with 60 x 16-core Xeons milling around in there.

We don't know the storage capacity but suspect it's not much, given the space constraints inside an Orca µServer. We don't know if 2.5-inch or M.2 firm factor flash storage is being used either. Aparna simply does not say how much SSD capacity there is.

Nor do we know much about its sales channel. The company has just come out of stealth, has a few customers and what looks like a hot box with neat timing features suitable for carrier types as well as dense server packaging.

We think the funding needs for such a hardware-focussed startup must in the $5m to $10m area, if not more. Aparna now has to sell a fair number of systems and get set for an A-round of VC funding. It has a mountain to climb as it establishes itself, with Cisco, Dell, HPE, Huawei, Lenovo, Supermicro and others selling servers against it. If Aparna can pack server CPUs this close together then, surely, so can they.

Orca µCloud 4015 and 4060 systems, and the Oserv8 and Oserv16 µServers are all available for customer shipment. Pricing for entry-level configurations of the µCloud model 4015 system begins at $49,500. ®

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