SeaMicro Straps 512 Intel Atom CPUs Into Mega Low-Drain Server

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News Posted: Mon, Jun 14 2010 1:24 PM
When you think of Intel Atom processors, what do you generally think of?Netbooks? MIDs? UMPCs? Future smartphones? Yeah, sure. What aboutsupercomputers and servers? Not exactly. But SeaMicro has accomplishedsomething that could very well change the way you see Atom CPUs, fromunderpowered, low-power-drain chips reserved for lower cost machines toCPUs with great potential to do great things.

The company has somehow coupled a total of 512 1.6GHz Atom-basedprocessors 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 crazyconcept, 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 asingle big server out of a lot of littlechips. We can have 2,048 Atom-based processors on a rack delivering thehighest density of CPUs in the market."


In most situations, servers use Xeon or Itanium CPUs, or on the AMDside, an Opteron. But all of those chips consume far more power than anAtom, and by every account, each is far more powerful as well. But crazythings happen when you string together 512 of anything, including IntelAtom CPUs. SeaMicro's machine uses just three main components: 512 Atomprocessors, memory and an ASIC designed by the company themselves. Thegoal is to assign the machine the duty of handling millions of smalltasks like searching, mapping and shooting out small Websites; thingsthat are relatively simple to process, but happen to many times persecond that it quickly becomes burdensome.

Aiming at this low-level niche is probably a smart move; an Atom-basedserver is perfect for those types of tasks, where bigger, more powerfulmachines go underutilized. SeaMicro's system can also use ARM chips orpotentially other processors, and while no prices are mentioned, wesuspect that Google, Facebook and Yahoo! are more than likely placingbids.

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Jun 14 2010 5:17 PM

This makes a lot of sense especially for things like a GPS server or directional internet appliance for a large network. This would even be great for schools which have large networks. This would be attractive for any location with a lot of users, and especially make sense when using thin clients or something of the like (HTPC's etc) which would even add to the energy efficiency! I think this would also make sense for things like 4G where you have a lot of users using data on smart phones as the applications generally used are less demanding.

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This reminds me of that "personal super computer" design from a few years ago. If I remember right, it was 128 VIA Nano chips, each with up to 2GB (256GB total) of ram in something that looked very much like one of those mini fridges. Actually, Dell makes a less powerful rack version of this called the XS11-VX8.

VIA is currently offering a 64bit server version of their Nano processor which would be perfectly suited for this type of design. Actually, unless all those Atom chips are dual core, it would be faster (Nano is a faster chip per clock).

No matter who makes it or who's tech they use, I think this is the right path to take for web servers and other low stress/high thread systems.

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realneil replied on Tue, Jun 15 2010 3:57 PM

Google has a 'stacked and packed' approach to their servers too. They're built into metal storage units in clusters. 1600 per box.

http://arstechnica.com/hardware/news/2009/04/the-beast-unveiled-inside-a-google-server.ars

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