Dell Unveils Via-Based XS11-VX8 Server

After building up anticipation earlier this month, Dell officially unveiled its XS11-VX8 server May 19. The Dell server uses Via Nano processors, and Dell allows its customers to pack 12 of these servers into a 2U chassis. Dell's use of low-power processors for this type of computing mirrors a similar effort from Super Micro Computer to incorporate Intel's Atom chip into a server system.

After building up hype earlier this month, Dell officially launched its XS11-VX8 server system May 19. The new Dell server, which is designed for dense, Web 2.0 data center environments, uses Via Nano processors, which are more commonly seen in netbooks and low-cost laptops.

For Dell, offering the XS11-VX8 server with Via Nano processors was a way to offer greater power efficiency and density in a smaller form factor system. According to Dell, users can pack up to 12 of these XS11-VX8 servers into a 2U (3.5-inch) chassis.

Dell is hoping to sell the XS11-VX8 server to companies that need thousands of x86-based servers in their data centers instead of a typical enterprise deployment of 10 or 20 systems. These types of "hyper-scale" companies include Web 2.0 and Web hosting businesses or enterprises interested in building out cloud computing environments in order to host or deliver applications through the Web.

With Via processors, Dell officials say that the XS11-VX8 server will consume only 15 watts of power when the operating system is running idle. When running a full application load, the servers consume between 20 and 29 watts. The Via Nano processor family, which is built on 65-nanometer manufacturing technology, range in clock speed from 1GHz to 1.8GHz.

Each Dell XS11-VX8 server also supports its own main memory system, hard disk drive and two Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards or NICs.

The Dell systems and Via chip also support 64-bit applications and the servers also support hardware-based virtualization.

The Dell XS11-VX8 server costs about $400, and Dell expects to begin shipping these systems by June.

The move by Dell to create the XS11-VX8 server is also a coup for Via, which is well known in IT circles but lags far behind the likes of Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. Each quarter, Via usually accounts for less than 1 percent of the world's x86 processor shipments. However, the company is trying to change that and has positioned its Nano processors as an alternative in the netbook market currently dominated by the Intel Atom processor.

Dell is also not the only company experimenting with different types of processors. Earlier this year, Super Micro Computer said it would sell a server that uses Intel Atom processors.