intel diane bryant

Intel announced today that it is shipping its first low-power Atom microprocessor designed specifically for a new breed of servers dubbed “microservers.”

These lightweight and efficient microservers, pioneered by startup SeaMicro (now owned by Intel’s rival, Advanced Micro Devices), are aimed at large-scale data centers that serve huge numbers of web pages to Internet surfers.

Intel’s new chip is a 64-bit dual-core Atom processor that operates on 6 watts of power. The world’s biggest chip maker is scaling down from its normal server chips, the 17-watt Xeon processors, in order to attack this low-end part of the market. But it has to engage in a tough balancing act so that the Atom chips do not cannibalize the high-end, more lucrative Xeon processors.

The new server chip, dubbed the Intel Atom processor S1200, has features for servers such as error correction, 64-bit support, and virtualization technologies. It also sells at a lower cost and can be packed more densely into energy-efficient server cabinets.

In this respect, Intel is better prepared for this market than AMD. Intel’s chips were used in SeaMicro’s first microservers a few years ago, but they were not tailor-made for the task. Then AMD bought SeaMicro for $334 million earlier this year and obtained its key technologies, such as a fast-switching technology, that are useful for microservers, beyond the core processing chip.

Intel said more than 20 designs are in the works based on the new S1200 chips
intel microservers

HP said its next-generation Gemini servers, shipping next quarter, will launch with the Atom processors. Software providers such as Oracle and Red Hat are supporting the launch.

“The data center continues to evolve into unique segments and Intel continues to be a leader in these transitions,” said vice president and general manager of Intel’s Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, Diane Bryant (pictured). “We recognized several years ago the need for a new breed of high-density, energy-efficient servers and other datacenter equipment.”

“Organizations supporting hyperscale workloads need powerful servers to maximize efficiency and realize radical space, cost, and energy savings,” said Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager of HP’s Hyperscale Business Unit for Industry-standard Servers and Software. “HP servers power many of those organizations, and the Intel Atom processor S1200 will be instrumental as we develop the next wave of application-defined computing to dramatically reduce cost and energy use for our customers.”

Intel’s next-generation Atom microserver chip, code-named Avoton, will be available in 2013. The S1200 costs $54 in quantities of 1,000 or more.