Intel may have acknowledged that Atom can be used as a server chip, but they sure not keen on positioning it as a potential alternative for low-power servers. In fact, the company has even gone as far to announce that such ‘low-power servers’ will only serve extremely niche markets.
Read on to find out more.
Some data-centers and system hardware administrators may have taken an interest to using Intel’s low-power Atom processors as the backbone to power their servers, and it is not too difficult to understand why. After all, the cheap and low-power Atoms make for great alternatives in powering servers which do not have to deal with intensive data crunching.
Furthermore, ARM, widely regarded as the biggest competitor to the x86 architecture, has already made moves to position its own low-power processors for use in such servers.
With users expressing such interest in making use of Atom as a server chip and the direct competition of ARM, one might think that Intel would be more enthusiastic in positioning the Atom as a potential alternative for low-powered servers. Unfortunately, that is not about to happen: while the company has acknowledged the presence of such servers, it is apparently not keen to market the Atoms as such.
“We are not opposed to an Atom based server, but we just don’t see broad adoption of the Atom as a server chip,” said Intel’s Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of its Data Center Group.
He also moved to explain why the ARM architecture will not be suitable for use in servers, citing architecture differences and incompatibility as the key reasons.
“ARM processors have the added disadvantage of not being compatible with software written for the x86 architecture,” he said.
Skaugen also claims that there will be a certain critical point where servers targeted at low-power consumption cannot hope to maintain its energy-consumption advantage against more powerful and efficient processors.
“People want energy-efficient, raw performance, and that can be found in a Xeon box, and not in a server built around Atom processors,” he added, while citing how the symmetric muilti-threaded Sandy Bridge will prove to be the better solution.
“In a two-socket system (for Sandy Bridge) you will have 32 threads, which is cooler than putting 32 single-core Atom chips,” Skaugen said.
His remarks come at a time where interest in low-powered servers is growing. Barely a month ago, SeaMicro, a vendor of low-power server technology, demonstrated a server which made use of 512 Atom processors at Intel’s IDF event. More importantly, it is also worth nothing that Intel once said something similar regarding the shift from x86 to x86-64. Coincidence much?