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Intel unleashes new 22nm Silvermont microserver chips

Intel has introduced new 64-bit Atom C2000 processors based on the company's 22-nanometer "Silvermont" microarchitecture for microserver, storage, and networking installations in the datacentre.

The new System-on-a-Chip (SoC) products include one line for microservers and cold storage platforms formerly code named Avoton, and a second group of SoCs known as Rangeley, which are being positioned for entry networking platforms. Intel offered a sneak peek at its latest lineup of back end-targeted Atom products at its Datacenter Day event in July.

Avoton and Rangeley, both featuring x86-64 instruction sets, are coming out just nine months after Intel introduced its first-ever Atom SoCs for datacentre operations, a move that has heated up the competition, with other players pushing ARM-based chips for ultra low-power microservers like Calxeda.

Intel's traditional x86 rival Advanced Micro Devices has its foot in both camps at the moment, partnering with ARM to help develop the latter's own forthcoming 64-bit architecture for 2014 while continuing to sell Atom-based server and data center fabric products through its SeaMicro subsidiary.

Intel, meanwhile, is billing its latest SoC offerings and a software defined networking (SDN) platform matching the new Intel Ethernet Switch FM5224 chipset and the company's WindRiver Open Network Software suite as the go-to silicon for makers of systems supporting mobile and cloud services.

Also this week, Intel showed reporters and analysts at a San Francisco event what it called "the first operational Intel Rack Scale Architecture (RSA)-based rack with Intel Silicon Photonics Technology," a new datacentre fabric which utilises a new MXC connector and Corning's Intel-certified ClearCurve optical fibre.

That setup is capable of transferring data at speeds up to 1.6 terabits-per-second across distances of up to 300 metres, the company said.

Sergis Mushell, a principal analyst for Gartner, said Intel is at this point pretty far ahead of ARM on microservers but the race is closer in other datacentre product categories.

"The fact is that Intel invented the [microserver] category with Atom. Now ARM has been talking about this microserver category but the only company that has made headway there [with ARM-based products] has been Calxeda, which really hasn't shipped in volume yet," Mushell said. "And we really don't know where ARM's 64-bit architecture will be in terms of comparison with x86."

But ARM is in a better position with regards to developing storage and networking products, the analyst said.

"On the server side, Intel clearly has dominance, but when you look at the networking and storage categories, ARM has shown in can play in both 32-bit and 64-bit. Intel's issue here is that it can absolutely develop and build a few very successful products and manufacture them in mass quantities. That's what Intel does. But when you're talking about building specific, tailor-made products like the ones needed for these other types of equipment and tasks, that's a different world for Intel."