Super servers built on Atoms

SeaMicro has developed a server that uses 512 low power Intel Atom processors on miniature motherboards the size of credit cards.

Andrew Feldman, SeaMicro’s CEO said Atoms can be more power-efficient than x86 chips for certain cloud and Web transaction workloads.

He said that transactions tend to be smaller in size but higher in volume.

He claimed that servers are inefficient when they handle such small workloads.

While Feldman thinks that Intel’s Xeon and AMD’s Opteron might be jolly good at traditional enterprise workloads such as database applications, a large number of small Atom cores provides better performance-per-watt in the cloud.

“The Internet is all about ordinary problems. The Atom turns out to be good at ordinary problems and not great at hard problems,” he said.

SeaMicro’s server, dubbed the SM10000, has as few components as possible to save space and reduce power consumption. It has 512 miniature Atom motherboards, connected by a fabric that provides throughput of 1.28 terabits per second.

The I/0 is virtualised through an ASIC which emulates the hardware. This has eliminated “90 percent” of the components from the motherboard so that it could shrunk to the size of a credit card. The only major components remaining are the DRAM, ASIC and Atom CPU, Feildman said.

The server is 10 rack units high, or 17.5 inches, and includes storage and Ethernet switching. It uses Atom Z530 processors running at 1.6GHz.

Feildman said that the server needs one-quarter of the power and space a traditional “best-in-class” server would need for the same workload.

The server is due for release July 30, priced starting at $139,000.