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Aparna Launches Its Cloud-in-a-Box

Craig Matsumoto
5/3/2017
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Startup Aparna says it has a different spin on the "cloud-in-a-box" idea, aiming to pack compute and storage at the network edge for applications such as fog computing.

Founder and CEO Sam Mathan says Aparna's Orca µCloud appliance, standing at just four rack units tall, isn't meant to chase Nutanix Inc. in the hyperconverged infrastructure market. Aparna wants to put elements of web-scale into an appliance suitable for edge networks. He also notes that Aparna's appliance has a networking fabric on the inside (more on that later).

(Mathan's name might strike a chord with longtime Light Reading readers. He founded Amber Networks and Matisse Networks, and he was an executive at Ascend Communications, which was acquired by Lucent. See Nokia Nabs Amber for $421M, Nokia Kills Amber Router and Rumor: Has Matisse's Optical Burst Gone Bust?)

ZeroStack similarly offers what you could call a shrink-wrapped cloud, delivered to enterprises in appliance form. One crucial difference is that ZeroStack is a software play; its expertise lies in the management software for these clouds, while the associated hardware is standard stuff from the likes of Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) or Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

So if Aparna isn't like hyperconverged infrastructure and isn't like ZeroStack, what is it?

"To me, it's a hardware package," says Lee Doyle, principal analyst with Doyle Research. "A lot of the value is in the software, but you look at their cost comparison -- to me, it's a cost play." He sees it being useful to Tier 2 operators that want a taste of cloud architecture without having to spend too much.

Aparna claims, for example, that it can match the capacity of a Dell rack of gear -- 480 processor cores and 768 terabytes of storage -- in one µCloud 4060 box for about half the price, at $970,500. (The 4060, aimed at data centers, can hold 60 µServers. Aparna also offers the 15-server µCloud 4015, which fits telco racks.)

Aparna uses off-the-shelf components but designed some of its own hardware in order to optimize for density and power consumption. The company's own servers, called µServers, fit in 3.5-inch cartridges, as do its solid-state storage drives.

Inside the appliance, that infrastructure is connected via two 10Gbit/s Ethernet fabrics based on the IP Infusion networking stack. It's an active/active architecture, meaning both fabrics run continually. Aparna stresses this as a nod to the five-nines requirements of telcos or to environments like financial networks or adtech where "you really can't afford, even for a short time, to have lower performance, because it either affects revenue or automation," Mathan says.

Aparna's funding so far has come from individual investors including Mathan, Kevin Ober of Divergent Ventures and Vish Mishra of Clearstone Venture Partners.

Aparna plans to show off the µCloud at the NFV World Congress, taking place in San Jose this week.

— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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