Made In U.S.A.: SeaMicro Intros Server With New Intel 64-Bit Atom Processors

SeaMicro on Monday introduced the first server to use Intel's new 64-bit Atom N570 processor, and claimed it is the first company to manufacture servers in the U.S. thanks to a $9.3 million stimulus grant as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

SeaMicro's new SM10000-64 server system is the world's most energy-efficient 64-bit server, squeezing 256 Intel Atom N570 dual-core processors in a 10U chassis, said Andrew Feldman, CEO of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

One SM10000-64 can replace 40 1U dual-socket servers with 64 SATA or SSD drives, two rack switches, two terminal servers, and a load balancer in terms of performance, with only one-fourth the power and space and one-third the weight, Feldman said.

This is important because of the costs involved in powering servers, Feldman said.

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Data center power and space are about 75 percent of total opex (operating expenses), he said. "Google says servers today cost more to power than to buy. And the EPA says servers account for 2.5 percent of U.S. power consumption, according to a 2007 study."

The SM10000-64 is built around 256 SeaMicro-designed servers, each of which is about the size of a 2-inch by 3-inch business card, Feldman said. Each server includes only three components, including the Intel Atom N570 processor, the SeaMicro ASIC, and memory. Eight servers fit on a 5-inch by 11-inch motherboard, and 64 of those motherboards fit in a 10U system.

This gives customers 64-bit 512 Intel Atom N570 dual-core processors, which are combined with up to 64 SATA or SSD drives and up to 64 gigabit Ethernet switches, he said.

SeaMicro in June came out of stealth mode with its original SM10000, built around 512 32-bit Intel Atom single-core processors in a 10U enclosure.

However, Feldman said, that first server was limited by the original processor's 32-bit architecture. "Ninety-five percent of x86 server applications run on a 64-bit operating system, so they needed to be recompiled to work on that server," he said. "And they only supported 2 GBs of operating-system addressable memory blocks."

The Intel Atom N570, however, is a dual-core, 1.6GHz processor which supports 64-bit operating systems, 4-GB addressable memory, and VT-x virtualization technology, he said.

Because the Intel Atom N570 was designed to run off a netbook battery, they make for an incredibly power-efficient server, Feldman said. That makes the SM10000-64 a good choice for Internet applications. However, he said, it is not suitable for such applications as CAD/CAM, ASIC simulations, and thermodynamic modeling.

To produce the SM10000-64, SeaMicro received a $9.3 million stimulus grant as part of the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The company used the funds to help create 40 engineering jobs at its headquarters, as well as 25 manufacturing jobs at NBS, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based contract manufacturer.

Next: Building A Channel

SeaMicro currently has over a dozen solution provider partners worldwide, and is looking to quickly build its U.S. channel base, Feldman said.

"We work well with integrators who are able to lead the sale with servers," he said. "It's been a long time since anyone has been able to lead with the server."

Deals with some of SeaMicro's top customers so far, including Rogers Communications, Mozilla, and the Oakridge National Laboratories, were done with channel partners, he said.

Feldman told CRN that the company has had investment from strategic partners. However, he declined to name them. "I'd love to announce them," he said. "But it's their choice."

SeaMicro is not the only company focusing on high-density servers.

Processor startup Tilera and Taiwan-based Quanta Computer last Summer collaborated to build what they billed as the world's highest compute density server, a unit which fits up to 10,000 processor cores on a standard rack is aimed at cloud computing and service providers.

Meanwhile, investors including Intel competitors ARM and Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), which was founded in part by AMD, in August invested $48 million in a new startup to produce low-power server processors.