Dell Next-Gen Micro Servers Use Intel, AMD Chips

Dell is rolling out its third-generation PowerEdge C5000 micro servers, which leverage low-power, energy-efficient processors from both Intel and AMD.

Dell is unveiling two new micro servers in a move that brings the small, highly energy-efficient form factor to a wider customer base.

The new additions to the PowerEdge C5000 line-the C5125 and C5220-are the third generation of micro servers created by Dell's Data Center Solutions Group. The first two generations were primarily custom-designed systems built for large customers. The newest systems are targeted more at mainstream businesses-they can be purchased via Dell's Website, for example, rather than having to go directly through the Data Center Solutions unit.

However, these new micro servers target the same customers as the first two generations, those companies looking for highly energy-efficient systems for such environments as cloud computing and Web hosting, where low power, low cost and high density are important. The servers offer a shared infrastructure-such as power supplies and cabling-that enables high density, putting up to 12 nodes into a 3U (5.25-inch) chassis.

Dell officials said the new micro servers offer four times the density of comparable 1U (1.75-inch) services from Hewlett-Packard and IBM, while cost significantly less to cool.

"Over the last four years, we've had the pleasure of working with some of the biggest data center operators in the world, whose complex environments require optimal efficiency," Andy Rhodes, executive director of marketing for Dell's Data Center Solutions group, said in a statement. "Our new PowerEdge C microservers further solidify our position as the premier vendor of specialized server solutions, leveraging our experience working with this unique set of customers and placing that power into the hands of a broader customer base including Web hosting and IT service providers."

The C5125 is powered by Phenom II and Athlon II chips from Advanced Micro Devices. The C5220 is based on Intel's new Xeon E3-1200 processors.

Intel officials in 2009 announced their efforts to create a micro server market based on energy-efficient, low-power Xeon processors, targeting such environments as large data centers and service providers. On March 15, Intel unveiled the latest generation micro server Xeon processors based on the company's "Sandy Bridge" microarchitecture.

Officials with the chip giant unveiled the 45-watt quad-core Xeon E3-1260L and the 20-watt dual-core E3-1220L, both built for single-socket systems. Those two chips are in production now and will be released within the next few weeks, company officials said. Another unnamed Xeon chip, a 15-watt version for dual-socket servers, will be released in the second half of 2011.

In addition, Intel next year will release three more Xeon chips, as well as an Atom processor that will have a power envelope of under 10 watts.

During a press conference to announce the new chips, Boyd Davis, general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, said such low-power servers can eventually account for as much as 10 percent of the systems market, with demand coming from such areas as cloud computing and Web hosting. Davis said there are some tasks where applications running on a single micro server are preferable to running multiple virtual machines on larger, more traditional systems.

For example, also at the press conference, Gio Coglitore, director of Facebook Labs, said the social networking powerhouse will leverage micro servers as an alternative to virtualization for front-end workloads. Such an environment would enable Facebook to more easily scale its workloads, as compared with using virtualization. They also would be easier to manage and to replace, Coglitore said.

Pushing forward with a micro server strategy also will help Intel address the rising threat of chip makers that are looking to push their low-power mobile chips based on designs from ARM Holdings into the data center to address such large-scale data centers like Facebook's.