When you think of Intel Atom
processors, what do you generally think of?
Netbooks? MIDs? UMPCs? Future smartphones? Yeah, sure. What about
supercomputers and servers? Not exactly. But SeaMicro has accomplished
something that could very well change the way you see Atom CPUs, from
underpowered, low-power-drain chips reserved for lower cost machines to
CPUs with great potential to do great things.
The company has somehow coupled a total of 512 1.6GHz Atom-based
processors into a single working machine, creating a system that
"consumes just a fourth of the power and space as a traditional server,
while aiming to deliver comparable computing performance." It's a crazy
concept, but it just might work. Andrew Feldman, the CEO of SeaMicro,
had this to say about the new invention: "We are trying to to build a
single big server out of a lot of little
chips. We can have 2,048 Atom-based processors on a rack delivering the
highest density of CPUs in the market."
In most situations, servers use Xeon or Itanium CPUs, or on the AMD
side, an Opteron. But all of those chips consume far more power than an
Atom, and by every account, each is far more powerful as well. But crazy
things happen when you string together 512 of anything, including Intel
Atom CPUs. SeaMicro's machine uses just three main components: 512 Atom
processors, memory and an ASIC designed by the company themselves. The
goal is to assign the machine the duty of handling millions of small
tasks like searching, mapping and shooting out small Websites; things
that are relatively simple to process, but happen to many times per
second that it quickly becomes burdensome.
Aiming at this low-level niche is probably a smart move; an Atom-based
server is perfect for those types of tasks, where bigger, more powerful
machines go underutilized. SeaMicro's system can also use ARM chips or
potentially other processors, and while no prices are mentioned, we
suspect that Google, Facebook and Yahoo! are more than likely placing