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Microsoft presses Intel for 16-core Atom

Microsoft presses Intel for 16-core Atom

Microsoft hopes to convince Intel to create a many-core SoC Atom design.

The push for many-core, low-power servers is continuing, and while Microsoft may be adding support for the ARM architecture to Windows 8, it's looking to its old friend Intel to help it out in the datacentre.

According to a report published by PC World, Microsoft is putting pressure on Intel to develop Atom processors with higher core counts. Rather than the single-core and dual-core Atoms available today, the software giant is looking for 16-core versions that will be better-suited to servers.

As well as increasing the core count, Microsoft engineer Dileep Bhandarka is encouraging Intel to develop the new many-core Atom as a system-on-chip (SoC) design, rather than a bare CPU. In other words, Microsoft wants Intel to take a leaf from the book of ARM processor manufacturers.

'If ARM can show us enough value over an x86 solution we might consider that,' Bhandarka told the audience at the Linley Group Data Center Conference, 'but there has to be a clear performance benefit'

Intel already has an Atom-based SoC design in the form of its Tunnel Creek E600 series of chips, but these are only single-core chips. Meanwhile, manufacturers of ARM chips such as Marvell are already sampling quad-core ARM-based server SoCs.

Although Intel's low-power Atom processor, originally developed for netbooks, has already found its way into server rooms via products such as the 512-core server from SeaMicro, the low core count on each chip means that multiple processor packages need to be used - increasing the heat output and power usage.

A many-core design would enable companies to develop servers with a minimum of physical chips, capable of churning through large quantities of relatively simple operations very quickly.

Microsoft's partnership with ARM on Windows 8, and its desire to use many-core, system-on-chip designs in its datacentres, appears to be sending a clear message to Intel: innovate or die.

Do Microsoft's plans for Atom-based, many-core servers sound sensible, or should the company just switch to the ARM architecture for these products and leave x86 to the power-hungry work? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

18 Comments

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B1GBUD 28th January 2011, 13:09 Quote
How about many core processors for desktops?
mi1ez 28th January 2011, 13:09 Quote
An interesting developement. Will we see Atom chips everywhere? Would a 16 core atom chip fold well? I can't see it's lack of out-of-order execution being a problem if all it does is fold...
Landy_Ed 28th January 2011, 13:12 Quote
When the blue chip organisations are building up commoditised services based on layering the points of entry into manageable chunks with a low footprint, I'd tentatively suggest this is a strategy that might sting both Intel and Microsoft.
Tattysnuc 28th January 2011, 13:36 Quote
Yay. 2 steps backwards, one step forwards in server performance.

It might be the catalyst that actually gets stuff coded for multiple threads though if 16, 32, 64 or whatever... single package core servers come into existence.

Imagine what the performance would be like on the Xeon equivalent!
Aracos 28th January 2011, 14:13 Quote
I thought atoms were terrible in terms of performance per clock in the laptop market so why would you want to run a many core atom server?
Lazy_Amp 28th January 2011, 14:31 Quote
I'd rather see a 32 Bobcat core chip.
schmidtbag 28th January 2011, 16:40 Quote
stepping up from 2 to 16 cores is asking a little much, and why would they want atom? brazos has proven to be an effective alternative. if amd ditched the gpu portion of brazos then they easily fit a lot more cores in 1 package. the gpu consumes most of the space of the chip. also, amd is the only company that has actually made a 12 core cpu, so i'm sure their experience would make them a better candidate to make a 16 core.

btw, MS and intel are NOT "old friends". they're both incredibly dependent on each other, and MS has sort of forced intel to do what they wanted in the past.
l3v1ck 28th January 2011, 21:25 Quote
Sounds a bit like a revamp of Larrabee ;)
Cthippo 28th January 2011, 21:25 Quote
Watching MS and Intel go at it would be about like watching zombies and soldiers fight in HL2. Highly entertaining since you don't care about either side! ;)
mute1 28th January 2011, 21:50 Quote
It looks like Microsoft don't care about what AMD comes up with then
ssj12 29th January 2011, 02:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by storm20200
I thought atoms were terrible in terms of performance per clock in the laptop market so why would you want to run a many core atom server?

they aren't to bad anymore when you have the dual-cores. the speed just seems outdated, like laptop from 5 years ago. I think a 16 core server with an atom-base wouldn't be to bad. It would be pretty efficient in power consumption, and give off very little heat compared to Xeons, PowerPC, etc. For small scale servers it would work quite well.
JA12 29th January 2011, 03:14 Quote
@Cthippo Nicely put :) Actually I think Intel and ARM don't have to care either. They both have their own field covered. And what might have just happened is that MS asked ARM to port Windows to their architecture with them, and ARM have said "yes" with a number containing $ sign and huge amount of zeros in it. It would be whole lot cheaper to stay x86 exclusive than port the bloated Windows ecosystem to ARM.
I wouldn't be surprised if MS would "press" AMD next.
SpAceman 30th January 2011, 13:20 Quote
Would it run Crysis?
jrs77 30th January 2011, 13:57 Quote
Before M$ starts to ask for more cores, they should first and foremost slim down their OS to run acceptable on the currently available DualCore Atoms.

Install Ubuntu on your Atom 330 and see how good they perform actually.

Besides that... More cores for servers are nothing bad, but out-of-order execution has much more to offer then the sheer amount of cores alone. Look at the Servers that are running on IBM Cell-processors or nVidia GPUs.
tad2008 30th January 2011, 19:54 Quote
I dont care if it's a single core, dual, triple, quad or any other multitude of cores, as long as the overall clock frequency stays up to ensure a decent amount of real cpu horsepower.
fingerbob69 31st January 2011, 20:32 Quote
Bit-tech seems to have missed today's big story ...Intel recalling ALL series6 Sandybridge chipsets for laptop and desktop motherboards.

Aaaah ,,,the trials and tribulations of being an early adopter!
Elton 1st February 2011, 03:11 Quote
Absolutely pointless.

Especially as most programs can't really work with 16 seperate threads.
TheQuadFather 3rd February 2011, 21:32 Quote
@ Elton, did you actually read the article? its for ARM not x86, so a completely different ball field altogether.
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