Intel pushes Atom range into server market

News 11 Dec, 2012

Low-power SoC configurations aim to provide better density than Xeons, but could end up costing more.

Intel has extended its System-on-Chip Atom part for use in datacentres as the firm aims to nullify the incoming threat provided by AMD/ARM.

The Intel Atom S1200 chip has been designed for use in the microserver, embedded/comms and storage categories.

Intel will make the chip available in three configurations, which will aim to address the power, performance and cost needs of businesses.

The most power efficient skew of the chip will use 6.1 watts and pack dual-cores with a clock speed of 1.6GHz. Other key features include support for Hyper-Threading, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and Intel VT-x technology.

Chris Feltham, datacentre product manager at Intel talked about the possible use cases of the Atom chip, focusing particularly on the microserver category. He showcased benchmarks Intel had run comparing equivalent Atom and Xeon arrays when placed in a hosting environment.

The results revealed that the Xeon E3 chips will still be the chips when it comes to performance. They will offer 10 times the node performance and twice the rack performance of S1200 counterparts.

“If you want the maximum possible throughput per node or per rack, Xeon delivers twice as much compared to Atom. If you want density, Atom will give more than five times [capacity],” he told journalists during a pre-brief.

“If your business model is based around the number of dedicated servers – hosting or revenue per tweet – [having] the maximum number of nodes is going to interest you."

Despite Feltham highlighting the density capabilities of the Atom chip, questions still remain over the clear business benefits of the range, especially as performance has been optimised for use in mobile devices.

Interestingly, Feltham noted that existing Xeon chips (17 watt TDP) will still provide better performance per watt. Added to this, the cost of cooling a server full of Atom chips is likely to cost businesses more than Xeon counterparts.

“When you’ve got the ability to put more nodes in a rack, you’ve got more power going to the rack. The power to rack total was higher for Atom than it was for Xeon [in our benchmark]," he added.

The S1200 range starts shipping today with prices starting at $54, when ordered in quantities of 1,000 units.