Boyd Davis, General Manager of server marketing at Intel, confirmed yesterday during a press dinner in London that the firm would be launching its first sub-10 watt Atom-based server chip in the second half of 2012.
The chip giant had only confirmed last month at a microserver briefing in San Francisco that the unnamed part - which may inherit the Xeon brand - would come in 2012. The microserver market, Davis said, would account for around 10 per cent of the overall server sales by 2015 which might explain Intel's rather timid strategy. A H2' 2012 launch means that the Atom-based server product would come at least five quarters or 15 months after the release of the N570.
The latter was launched at the end of February, is the first Atom chip to feature 64-bit support and will be used by server startup SeaMicro in its new SM10000-64 server which packs 512 cores (256 processors) in a single 10 RU plug ad play server, promising back then 1/4 of the power and 1/4 of the space of today's "best in class volume servers".
The second half of 2012 may turn out to be one fraught with danger for Intel as the first products based on the ARM Cortex-A15 technology, some of them targeting the very low end of the server markets, are expected to be launched then with Calxeda, Nufront, Marvell and Fujitsu amongst the likely candidates.
The 10 watt Atom server chip would almost certainly be a refined version of the N570, possibly with a much finer manufacturing process, which will allow Intel to reduce the die size while significantly boosting the clock speed and keeping the overall TDP in check.
Intel confirmed at IDF in September 2010 that it was on track to deliver products based on 22nm technology for the second half of 2011 which means that the new Atom chips are very likely to use this process.
Boyd also reaffirmed that one of the biggest advantages that Intel products currently have compared to ARM in the server arena is 64-bit support. The Cortex A15 will ship only as a 32-bit product (expandable to 40-bit) at launch although ARM's CEO, Warren East, confirmed in February 2011 the company's interest in 64-bit extensions at some point in the future.