SeaMicro Squeezes 512 Atom Processors Into New 10U Server

SeaMicro on Monday unveiled a new server architecture that puts up to 512 Intel Atom processors in a 10U rack mount space in a move to slash data center power and space requirements by up to 75 percent.

SeaMicro's new SM10000 server combines 512 Intel Atom processors, Gbit and 10-Gbit Ethernet, and software for management and load-balancing into an integrated package that can be dropped into any data center or application, said Andrew Feldman, president and CEO of the Seattle-based startup.

SeaMicro decided to focus its server development on the Intel Atom processor because it is 3.2-times more efficient in terms of how much work it can do for the amount of power it uses compared to other x86-based processors such as Intel's Xeon or AMD's Opteron, Feldman said.

"For the same amount of work compared to other processors, they use less than one-third the amount of power," he said. "Or if you use the same amount of power, they can do over three-times the work."

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The Atom's higher level of work-to-power performance stems from the fact that they were designed to do different kinds of work than other, more powerful processors, Feldman said.

"The Xeon and Opteron architecture were designed to solve hard problems," he said. "But with the Internet, we have a flood of 'easy' problems. That's the underpinning of why the smaller processors are so efficient."

The SM10000 server's architecture features a single-box cluster which can work with any CPU, including the Atom, Arm, or any x86-based processor.

To get a density of 512 processors per 10U of rack space, SeaMicro has eliminated about 90 percent of the motherboard components by placing the Atom processor, DRAM, and proprietary ASIC for a single server on a board about the size of a credit card.

SeaMicro then placed eight of those tiny servers onto a 5-inch by 11-inch plug-in board, and 64 of those boards into a 10U chassis.

Because of the drop in component count and the tight integration, the SM10000 server uses less than 2 KWh of power. Customers can deploy up to four SM10000 servers in an industry-standard rack which in total consumes less than 8 KWh of power.

Next: Big Savings In Power, Floor Space Costs

As a result, a solution that featured a 100,000 SPECint_rate performance using the SM10000 server at 50 percent utilization would require 80 systems on 20 racks consuming 81 KWh of power, Feldman said. The same level of performance using Dell R610 rack mount servers would require 2,000 systems on 80 racks consuming a total of 356 KWh of power, he said. That would result in a savings of over $1.6 million over four years, he said.

However, the average industry utilization, when customers provision their server infrastructure for peak loads, is 17 percent to 18 percent, Feldman said.

"At that level, with SeaMicro, you could save $4.5 million over four years in power costs alone," he said. "But when you add power and data center floor space, you could save over $15 million over four years."

The SM10000 server also supports up to 64 SATA or SSD storage drives per 10U chassis. For Internet connectivity, it can be configured with up to 8 Ethernet connectors, each of which can come with eight Gbit Ethernet or two 10-Gbit Ethernet ports, Feldman said.

The SM10000 is currently available in limited quantities and will be generally available on July 30, Feldman said.

List price for the server starts at $139,000, which includes 512 Atom processors, the chassis, and eight Gbit Ethernet ports.

SeaMicro is also designing models for other processors, a process tat involves only replacing the Atom with another model. However, Feldman declined to discuss product roadmaps.

Sales in Japan and Europe will go through indirect channels only, while U.S. sales will initially be mainly direct and via a few select solution providers, Feldman said.

"We are using a hybrid channel model in the U.S. because, at the beginning of the company, it's important to get our own guys out with the customers to understand their requirements," he said. "We're actively interviewing and recruiting VARs who can work with innovative technology."