Seamicro, a little-known hardware startup, has launched a server that manages to cram a whopping 512 Intel Atom microprocessors into a 10U chassis that manages to deliver supercomputer-class performance but consumes only a quarter of the power and occupies only 25 per cent of the space.
It is the first time that Intel's Atom CPUs, which are normally found in cheap & low-powered netbooks, is being used to equip enterprise-class servers, while managing to deliver up to 100,000 SpecInt.
But using some clever engineering, Seamicro claims that the new system, the SM1000, uses only a fraction of the resources, both physical and electrical, of the Dell R610 server with 32nm Westmere Xeon processors.
Andrew Feldman, the CEO of Micro, said that the product, which uses Z530 Atom processors running at 1.6Ghz, may not fit all tasks but should be more than adequate for web-oriented applications, the likes of Facebook, Google or other Web 2.0 ones.
Atom processors however face the growing threat of ARM-based processors like dual core Cortex-A9 models which are about to be launched to the market. These, coupled with speeds that match those of Atom processors, mean that ARM may be able to regain the power/performance crown soon.
In the meantime though, Feldman says that Intel's Atom stands "head and shoulders best in class" compared to its competitors. And that includes dual core Cortex and VIA's Nano. Whether traditional consumers will be turned off by the processors lack of ECC support remains to be seen.
At the end of the day though, it will be a win-win situation for Intel as even the SM1000 won't come cheap (starting price is $139,000) and will bring some diversity to its own product line.