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Low-power x86 board targets Linux network appliances

Jan 21, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 80 views

Via is sampling a single-board computer aimed at relatively high-end network appliances based on x86 Linux. Powered by a 1GHz, 1.5GHz, or 2GHz C7 processor, and supporting up to 3.5GB of DDR2 RAM, the Network Appliance Board (NAB) 7500 sports four gigabit Ethernet ports.

(Click for larger view of NAB 7500)

Suggested uses for the NAB 7500 include firewalls, VPN routers, and more. The board is compatible with “many” Linux distributions, according to Via, with Gentoo being popular among those wishing to take advantage of compiler optimizations available for the C7's x86-compatible Esther architecture. Other interesting choices might be Vyatta's commercially supported but free Debian-based router distribution for x86 hardware, or Zeroshell, a free Italian router distribution that was recently updated.

NAB 7500TLG, top and back
(Click either to enlarge)

The NAB 7500 is a six-layer board measuring 9 x 7.1 inches (228.6 x 180mm). It is compatible with FlexATX and MicroATX power supplies, Via says, with 90-120 Watts said to be adequate for the “heaviest multimedia applications.” The board's C7 processor is touted as offering better performance per Watt than other x86 chips, and Via claims that testing found the NAB 7500 pulling the following approximate wattages:

  • S3 standby mode — 4
  • Running Winstone benchmark suite — 28
  • Idle state — 23
  • Playing DVD — 25
  • Downloading data — 24

The NAB 7500 offers a variety of PC-style I/O and expandability. There's USB 2.0, IDE, SATA-2, a mini-PCI slot, a CompactFlash slot, super I/O (floppy, serial, parallel, IR, etc), and more. Another interesting feature is a “golden finger” PCI edge connector, which along with an adapter can apparently support up to three PCI expansion cards.

The NAB 7500 is available initially in two variants, including a basic “7500-15LG” model and a “7500-15TLG” model that adds a TPM (trusted platform module) from Infineon. The 7500-15TLG model also adds a fifth gigabit Ethernet controller featuring LAN bypass capabilities, and a type III mini-PCI slot.

With “fansink” CPU cooler in place
(Click to enlarge)

Specifications listed by Via include:

  • Processor: Via C7 1.5GHz NanoBGA2, with 1.0 and 2.0 parts listed as manufacturing options
  • Chipset
    • CN896 northbridge
    • VT8251 southbridge
  • Memory
      2x DDR2 533/667 DIMM sockets

    • Up to 3.5GB
  • Chrome9 HC IGP (integrated graphics processor)
  • Expansion
    • 33MHz 32-bit PCI “golden finger” supports 3 PCI devices
    • 1x mini-PCI type III socket (7500-15TLG only)
  • Network I/O:
    • 4x Via VT6130 GbE controllers
    • 1x VT6122 GbE controller (15TLG only)
  • Super I/O chip: Winbond W83697HG
  • TPM: Infineon SLB9635TT 1.2 (Trusted Platform Module) (for NAB 7500G-15TLG)
  • Onboard I/O connectors (on pin headers):
    • 1x VGA pin connector
    • 1x Digital I/O pin connector (4 input, 4 output, TTL level)
    • 1x PS/2 pin connector for keyboard and mouse
    • 1x Front panel pin connector
    • 1x Front panel LED pin connector for the LAN activity indicators of Ethernet, wireless, and LAN bypass (LAN bypass for NAB 7500-15TLG)
    • 2x Fan connectors: CPU/Sys FAN
    • 4x SATA connectors
    • 1x Type II CompactFlash slot
    • 2x USB pin connectors for 4 additional USB 2.0 ports (USB5 for VNT WLAN module with BIOS control)
    • 1x Serial port pin connector (with 5v/12v select)
    • 1x pin connector for chassis intrusion detection
    • 1x 12V DC jack (mfg. option)
    • 1x 1×4 pin 12V DC connector (mfg. option)
    • 1x HDD power pin (+5v,+12v)
    • 1x ATX power connector
  • Back panel I/O:
    • 1 DB-9 serial port (with console redirection)
    • 4 RJ-45 LAN ports (NAB 7500-15LG)
    • 5 RJ-45 LAN ports (NAB 7500-15TLG, LAN C/D with LAN bypass)
    • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • OS support: Linux, Windows 2000/XP, Win CE, XPe


The NAB 7500 is sampling now to project customers, Via said. Pricing was not disclosed.

Other recent low-powered x86 systems targeting network appliances include the Hero Logic HL-463 and ARInfotek Teak 3011, both based on less powerful AMD Geode processors.

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