Intel Brings 6-Watt Atom Server SoC to the Data Center
Intel during the press conference got backup from executives from Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Facebook, both of whom said the new Atom SoCs offer a strong combination of server capabilities with high energy efficiency. HP last year became the first top-tier server OEM to announce it was partnering with a company—Calxeda—developing ARM-based server chips as part of its larger Project Moonshot initiative to develop dense, highly power-efficient microservers. However, HP officials announced the first of these "Gemini" systems would be based on Intel's 64-bit Atom "Centerton" chips. During the Webcast, Paul Santeler, vice president of HP's Hyperscale Business Unit, lauded the Atom S1200 chips, calling the product family "a true server-class product built on a truly energy-efficient core." HP already is shipping the first of its Gemini servers, and in the first quarter next year will begin shipping the second generation, Santeler said. Bryant said Intel already has more than 20 design wins in the works based on the Atom S1200 chips from the likes of HP, Dell, Huawei, SuperMicro and Quanta. Some of those partners have been able to get as many as 1,000 of the Atom SoCs into a single server rack, she said.Intel's announcement was quickly dismissed by AMD executives, who argued that Intel was too late in getting into the microserver space. They noted their $334 million acquisition in February of SeaMicro, a company making microservers that at one time had partnered with Intel. In an email sent to journalists, AMD officials pointed to the SeaMicro deal and its partnership with ARM to develop ARM-based server chips as examples of their company's leadership in the space. "Intel is way behind on small cores," they said in the email. "They have no cell phone market share, little tablet market share, and now they are threatened that they will lose server market share. AMD and its SeaMicro technology are leading the charge in microserver technology and development." The microserver market is still very much a niche market, but one that Intel executives have said could grow to as much as 10 percent of the overall server space, while some analysts have said it could be more than 15 to 20 percent.
Intel is already prepping for the next generation of the Atom server SoCs—called "Avoton"—which will be based on the 22-nanometer manufacturing process and include the company's 3D Tri-Gate transistor architecture, Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's Cloud Platform Group, wrote in a Dec. 10 blog post. In 2014, a 14nm Atom platform will be released. With each new generation, Intel also will integrate other features, such as networking technology, into the chips, Bryant said.