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

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 bids.