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Start-up launches 512-Atom server

Start-up launches 512-Atom server

Each processing board in the SM10000 contains eight Intel Atom processors for a total of 512 CPUs.

Intel's low-power Atom processor will be familiar to anyone who's used a netbook or nettop, but at least one company is betting it can take the chip to a whole new place - the high-performance server market.

According to coverage over on CNET, start-up SeaMicro has just announced a deal with the US Department of Energy to launch the SM10000 10U server, which features 512 individual Atom processors stuffed tightly into its rackmount casing.

Justifying its decision to use such a large quantity of low-powered processors - instead of the more common approach of a lower quantity of extremely powerful chips - the company claimed that its inaugural product meets the unique needs of an Internet data centre where "the challenge is to handle millions of relatively small, independent tasks like those needed for searching, social networking, viewing web pages, and checking e-mail," or exactly the sort of thing where the number of processing cores is of far greater advantage than the power of the processing cores.

Speaking of power, SeaMicro claims that the SM10000 draws up to 75 percent less juice than a traditional server of equivalent capacity - meaning that companies can both drop their power bill drastically and reduce their data centre's heat output, providing their particular usage is suited to a whole mess of Atom processors.

The SM10000 is expected to launch in the US at the end of next month for an eye-watering starting price of $139,000 (around £94,110) - although if you find yourself needing 512 processors in a single box you're probably a bit beyond worrying about the price.

Can you see a market for a vast quantity of low-power processors, or would companies be better off filling the same 10U space with a series of Magny-Cours-based servers? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

17 Comments

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mi1ez 15th June 2010, 10:21 Quote
I'm not convinced this is the way to go, although I can there's a sound theory behind it. Good luck to them and I look forward to hearing about performance.
alpaca 15th June 2010, 10:25 Quote
in light of current events/articles:

can it run crysis?
kenco_uk 15th June 2010, 10:30 Quote
I can only only assume it's been tested to the hilt before being unleashed. What OS are they to use?
Tom @ CCL 15th June 2010, 10:30 Quote
Surely if this is the method of thinking they would have been better going down the GPU route for massive multi-core options?
kingosticks 15th June 2010, 10:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom @ CCL
Surely if this is the method of thinking they would have been better going down the GPU route for massive multi-core options?
This is aimed at small independent tasks. And I assume there is some benefit in running x86 code rather than recompiling for a GPU.
l3v1ck 15th June 2010, 10:47 Quote
It seems like a very bizarre idea to me. Why use in order CPU's when they're inefficient by their nature. Surely lower clocked Core i# CPU's would be better for the task of cheapness and power efficiency?
It'll be interesting to see how it does.
LAGMonkey 15th June 2010, 11:47 Quote
SM10000? its over 9000!!!!

But i do like this, a lot.
And i believe the company looked at running ARM processors but chose atoms as they are x86. no need to recompile any code and youve already got a lot of software that can be run on it.
As for the OS... as far as its conserned its just one BIG CPU (or as many as you want, its virtulised) so you can run windows, *nix, OS2/Warp (maybe?)
borandi 15th June 2010, 12:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingosticks
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom @ CCL
Surely if this is the method of thinking they would have been better going down the GPU route for massive multi-core options?
This is aimed at small independent tasks. And I assume there is some benefit in running x86 code rather than recompiling for a GPU.

^^ Got it in one. Though the downside of all these small chips is that if one particular job is massive, it'll have to go through a relatively poor CPU. Stick in a couple of Xeon E6xxx chips for those :)
Gareth Halfacree 15th June 2010, 12:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by LAGMonkey
SM10000? its over 9000!!!!
I LOLed. :)
Quote:
Originally Posted by LAGMonkey
you can run [...] OS2/Warp (maybe?)
I vomited. :(
barndoor101 15th June 2010, 13:48 Quote
its a rather specialised piece of equipment - the atom doesnt support intel VT, or ECC RAM, itll have to be a highly independant set of tasks with very little multithreading.
TSR2 15th June 2010, 16:54 Quote
Atom? Netbook chip you say?
HourBeforeDawn 15th June 2010, 17:39 Quote
amazing how many people cant grasp the type of information that these server will receive lol but no they wont ever see anything "intense" or "large" as some have put it and to off load to a GPU isnt as practical for such a thing as its not doing any hi math calculations or rendering or the likes. So this is actually I deal for the power use behind it.
Shielder 15th June 2010, 18:08 Quote
It runs 512 iterations of Linux. Has 2GB per CPU and as far as I understand it, no storage (or it may be extra for the storage). There are 64 network ports on the back which can be teamed to make 16 Gigabit ethernet ports (?).

Look on the anandtech website for more info.

Andy
Tangster 15th June 2010, 18:17 Quote
I'm sure it works for what it does. Mind you, boasting that you have 512 atom chips in a server isn't the same as 512 xeons or opterons...
crazyceo 15th June 2010, 21:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tangster
I'm sure it works for what it does. Mind you, boasting that you have 512 atom chips in a server isn't the same as 512 xeons or opterons...

Yes, it's not entirely a "big" willy wave at all is it! It's kind of one where everyone turns and points their fingers at it and laugh.....................ok, that happened to me alot.
RichCreedy 16th June 2010, 11:56 Quote
i can see the thinking behind this, your not going to use it for a games server, but if your running web servers, you don't need powerful processors to deliver the websites.

my kids have custom built mini itx machines than run atom 330's, and they do everything they need them to.
Splynncryth 16th June 2010, 17:01 Quote
The mentioned tasks have all been done on other architectures that are in order with shallow pipelines if they are even superscalar at all. So I don't see a problem with picking an Atom.
What they get is a selection of mature, well maintained tool chains, large software base, a well understood architecture (32 bit x86), and a huge talent pool tha is already comfortable with x86.

The picture looks like it's all based on Menlow and there is an SCH for each CPU. I'm not sure how they are linking each 'computer' together (nontransparent bridge, Ethernet, some other IO tech), or if they are linked at all. But having each be independent means they could just put an inactive SCH/CPU pair into S3 or even switch it off.
Assuming that the hardware platform is fixed (no PCIe slots, fixed RAM config, etc), the BIOS can be made to boot very fast, and the OS can probably be tweaked top do the same. That could make a full system boot fast enough with an SSD to make a full shutdown feasible (as opposed to S3).
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