SeaMicro: Intel proxy shows server moxie
SeaMicro last week announced its newest ultra-dense, ultra-low power Atom-based server solution. Our pal TPM gives it full coverage in this Reg article, but here’s the basic story.
SeaMicro's first system, the SM10000, crammed eight Atom single-core processors and 16GB of memory onto a 5” x 11” system board and combined 64 of these boards along with switches, fans, and space for 64 drives into a single 10U chassis. All in, the system supports a grand total of 512 server images.
The new box, cleverly named the SM10000-64, is the same thing in essence, but with a significant upgrade at the server board level.
The new boards use the upcoming Atom N570, a dual-core chip that can support 64-bit operating systems. It can address 4GB of memory, and it has Intel’s VT-x support for virtualization. The total core count on the boards and in the entire system remains the same.
Each dual-core Atom replaces two of the older single-core chips and leaves room for – as SeaMicro put it in a briefing – “future cool stuff”. I suggested they add extra user memory to store music and video files (i.e. porn), but was met with silence.The biggest physical change is doubled memory from 2GB per server to 4GB and, of course, the ability to address it.
Campaign against ARMs
To me, it looks like SeaMicro is Intel’s weapon of choice to blunt the ARM processor’s move into servers. As has been chronicled in the Reg and elsewhere, NVIDIA and a host of smaller companies is looking to morph the uber low-cost, low-power ARM chip into server processor form. With ARM, NVIDIA has a chance to take a clean-sheet approach to building flavors that are server-centric.
ARM's great advantage is that it doesn't have any legacy compatibilities to carry forward in new chips; it’s the most rasa the tabula has been since perhaps the DEC Alpha chip. But the ARM guys have a bit easier sledding than the Alpha floggers.
Back in Alpha’s day, DEC had to fab its own chips, and per-chip production costs were very high. Also the company had to adapt (or have others adapt) operating systems for it, and then convince ISVs to port applications.
ARM is a different story: it already has Linux variants, and Microsoft has pledged support for the chips. There are many options for chip fabbing, and current volumes for ARM chips far outstrip Intel and AMD combined on the x86 side of the market. But it is an open question on how much those economies of scale come into play in keeping down the per chip cost of Server ARM down.
SeaMicro powers down
What Intel and SeaMicro have going is a highly dense server solution that uses one-fourth the space and power of traditional servers for comparable throughput. The acquisition costs are roughly the same, but the operational costs should be about 75 per cent less expensive.
Intel and SeamMicro also have the massive x86 ecosystem – and this is a huge advantage. ISVs and customers alike can run the same code on the new SM10000-64 as they run on traditional x86 systems.
For web-centric customers, electricity is the highest operational expense, and the SeaMicro solution beats all other contenders by a huge margin on this score; this is what has fueled its success to date. The new system, with its larger memory, support for 64-bit apps, and virtualization support, should bring more into the fold.
It’s easy to see why Intel is showing a lot of interest in SeaMicro and showering them with support. SeaMicro is Intel’s best shot to get product into the market that can compete and win against ARM when it appears in server trim. ®
time to roll out those Quad core Freescale A9 chip and SME server PCB this year...
it seems simple enough, time to roll out those 6Quad core Freescale mx6 ARM cortex A9 chip SOC's at just over $20 a pop all day long including their profit margin , (dont think Intel can pop their Atom out at that price! for long)
Monday, January 3rd, 2011, 1:00 am by Brad Linder
"All three new chips will begin sampling in the second quarter of 2011, and the company expects devices using the new chips to hit the market before the end of the year."
and make server (on a new mass produced style PCiE card in included driver/app web interface too )PCB for Small and medium enterprises use this year... so everyone can buy and use them, not just Co-location sites etc.
and put 16 of them of this or something like it
Ubuntu-based ARM server runs on 80 Watts
By Eric Brown,2010-12-01
"ZT Systems announced what it says is the first commercially available ARM-based development platform for the server market. The Ubuntu Linux-based R1801e 1U rackmount server employs SSD (solid state disk) storage and eight ARM Cortex-A9-based computer-on-modules (COMs), providing 16 600MHz cores while using less than 80 Watts, the company says."
““The i.MX 6 series is Freescale’s first ARM-based multicore SoC and first Cortex-A9 model. The processor advances the i.MX family with dual-stream 1080p video playback at 60 frames per second (fps), 3D video playback at 50Mbps, desktop-quality gaming, augmented reality applications, and novel content creation capabilities, says Freescale.
The SoC is also touted for being one of the first applications processors to offer hardware support for the open source VP8 codec.
the SoC is claimed to enable 1080p video (single stream) with only 350mW consumption. "
Good point, but....
...sure Linux was ported to Alpha, but it was, at least in my opinion, too little too late. Alpha was over as a Unix competitor in the late 90's. They just didn't get enough traction with ISVs and even though the systems offered amazing performance, customers couldn't get the range of apps they needed. Microsoft did deliver on Alpha, but only after a lot of delays. In my mind, it was the lack of an ecosystem that killed Alpha, rather than technical considerations.
"Microsoft delivered Windows NT for the [Alpha]."
In a manner of speaking they did. But not in the manner which DEC management had been led to expect. DEC got an OS, pieces of a compiler, and not much else. Certainly very little commitment.
In a few niche markets (such as high end pre-press Postscript rendering and the like), the performance of Alpha outweighed the lack of general apps, for a little while. But then x86s got faster and although Alpha got faster too, Microsoft pulled the plug on NT/Alpha and the rest is history. As is Alpha. IA64 of course has become the industry standard 64bit architecture, just like HP and Intel said it would. Hasn't it.
Linux was indeed quickly ported to Alpha, and it's where I got my intro to the world of free/open source software. Thanks to David M-T, Dave R, and others who made it all work.