Dell Opts for Via Nano Chips in New Servers

Dell is turning to Via Technologies to power a new server designed to run in dense Web hosting environments. Dell chose the Via chips, rather than processors from Intel or AMD, because not only do they offer a smaller power footprint than their counterparts, but they also can handle 64-bit applications and include hardware-based virtualization capabilities. Dell is the latest system maker looking to such low-power chips for servers. Super Micro Computer is rolling out servers based on Intel's Atom processor.

Dell engineers, tasked with creating a server that offered full functionality but that could fit into highly dense Web hosting environments, are turning to Via Technologies to power the systems.

Dell is preparing to roll out the XS11-VX8, code-named Fortuna, which is powered by Via's Nano processor and aimed at Web hosting companies that tend to buy thousands of servers at a time.

Dell officials said the first prototypes of the new system will start reaching about 15 businesses in about three weeks.

The Fortuna system not only shows Dell to be an innovator, rather than simply a company content to follow the market, but also is a significant step for Via in an x86 market dominated by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

Intel Atom shipments slip as the PC processor market bottoms out.

"This is definitely a very significant step for us," said Epan Wu, senior director of chip marketing at Via. "Dell is a very well-known player, but they're also a new opportunity for us ... because they're a demonstration [of] how our [technology] can be used."

The system, which in most configurations will sell for about $400 per server, is coming out of Dell's Data Center Solutions group, a 2-year-old unit that particularly addresses issues in what Drew Schulke, product marketing manager for the group, called the "hyperscale market," the businesses that buy thousands, rather than 10 or 20, of servers at a time.

A couple of large Web hosting companies came to Dell saying they had large workloads that, while not complicated, needed systems that were very power-efficient and could fit into a dense environment, Schulke said.