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Apr 12, 2012

Intel Plans to Slip Atom into Servers

American-Israeli company Intel is reportedly planning to keep its promise and introduce server CPU products based on the ill-famed Atom design.

Although these CPUs were never faster than AMD’s  Fusion designs, nor ARM’s A-series, they’ll benefit from Intel’s money and market influence and receive a powerful push towards the server scene.

There was quite a stir back in the day when Calxeda announced it was designing ARM based servers, and there was even more talk after AMD acquired SeaMicro.

SeaMicro was a micro server designer that was building professional systems using Atom CPUs. In an interesting turn of events, AMD left Intel with no official Atom server integrator, so now Intel has to support such an initiative itself.

Intel announced its first Atom CPU for low power microservers at a major company confab in Beijing yesterday.

The new Atom is codenamed Centerton and has a system-on-a-chip design, which makes it even more power efficient than the current, dual-chip design Atom CPUs. Centerton’s thermal design power (TDP) is 6 watts.

This is a lot lower power consumption than Intel’s coolest Sandy Bridge based CPU, the Intel Pentium 350 processor. This low power CPU has two cores and 3 MB of Level 2 cache but also has Hyper-Threading technology enabled.

Running at a 1.2 GHz clock speed, despite the clockspeed advantage the future server version of Atom will have, the Pentium 350 will probably trounce a dual socket Centerton design.

Since two Centerton chips will dissipate 12 watts of heat, we're wondering why would anybody increase the complexity of their server board and build two different sockets to do the job of one out-of-order CPU.

It’s likely that logic will not matter in the face of Intel’s market power and desire for profit, just as it didn’t matter back in the Willamette and Prescott days.

We wish that the wonderful Intel Israel CPU design team will prove us wrong and design a solution that performs better, costs less and has the much lower power consumption we all desire.

After all, this is the design team that brought us Centrino and that has been getting most of the billions Intel is pouring into R&D.


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