SeaMicro has introduced its second high-density server that uses 256 dual-core Atom chips crammed into a box in oder to deliver power efficient computing at about a fourth of the power consumption of a traditional rack of machines. But the biggest news about this server is pretty small, namely the dual-core Atom chip that Intel has manufactured to go inside the SeaMicro box– perhaps the first time Intel has built a chip especially for a startup and a sign of how Intel will defend its x86 server territory from rival ARM.
SeaMicro aims to build a better server using Atom chips and its own specially designed silicon to handle the networking complexity that derives from shoving 512 cores (the first box contained 512 processors) into a box. Getting that many cores to allocate resources takes its own brain and access to a compute fabric inside the box capable of delivering 1.28 terabit per second. SeaMicro’s first server was launched last June but it had a few shortcomings. It only was capable of 32-bits processing (a problem associated with current generation ARM cores that vendors trying to sell ARM-based systems will also have to overcome) and only could access 2 GB of memory.
Most server software is written for 64-bit machines, so folks using 32-bit machines have to adjust their code. As for the memory issue, web services want to store as much information in memory or as close to the processor as possible to improve response times of their services. These changes make the SeaMicro box more competitive with more traditional servers, while still offering power efficiency.
Last June SeaMicro executives went to Intel asking for something better. Intel came up with a dual-core Atom processor that can deliver 64 bit processing and can address 4 GB of memory. In addition, the new chip allows for more real estate on the motherboard because SeaMicro can still cram 512 cores in its machine but now it uses half the number of chips (see image below). The reduction in components also means a 15 percent to 17 percent reduction in power usage.