Sometimes less can be more. There are types of web scale workloads that don’t require a lot of single threaded CPU performance, such as static web content delivery or low-end dedicated hosting. In those cases, using microservers based on multiple low-cost, low-power server processors can be an interesting prospect.
Intel and HP recently selected LeaseWeb to test drive the latest prototype of such a low-power server. They sent over a confidential box to LeaseWeb, some special cables and an instruction manual so we could try out two alpha servers based on this new chip, the Intel Atom S1200 processor. As Manager of Dedicated Hosting, one of the great advantages of my role is that I get to play with this kind of innovative hardware before anyone else, which totally appeals to my inner geek.
Before I jump into my discoveries, let’s talk about the idea of Atom S1200 processors: They are low-power, dual-core System on Chip (SoC) processors for microservers. For comparison:
- The current generations of server processors are great for a wide range of data center workloads because of their performance, memory capacity, capabilities, and the flexibility which they provide. They usually average about 17-135 watts of power.
- Intel Atom S1200 processors are low-power server processors, with frequencies ranging from 1.6GHz to 2.0GHz, which clock in at approximately six to eight watts. We find them most suitable for serving basic web content, such as static web pages.
From LeaseWeb’s perspective, these processors have twin additional advantages: The S1200 product family supports modern 64-bit operating systems and software, while simultaneously retaining compatibility with x86 software. This means that customers who migrate legacy data over to one of these servers won’t need to implement new software stacks to work within the migrated infrastructure.
The processor’s design enables a much smaller form factor, which can allow for six to eight times the number of servers in a single standard rack. So, one rack can potentially hold over 1000 server nodes, depending on the form factor. According to Intel, approximately two dozen low-power designs, including microservers, storage, and networking systems, are incorporated into the Atom S1200 processor family.
We took Intel’s and HP’s conceptual hardware to our Amsterdam data center, where we wired it up according to the instructions Intel had provided us. We then started testing and ran several benchmarks against other server processors. In the end, we discovered that the power consumption results were most promising. The system we received, which was just a prototype, was fully optimized and had an impressively lean power consumption of around 13 watts. Very promising, indeed! It gives me good hope for the future of HP’s Moonshot server, which was officially launched today.
LeaseWeb is always adding new dimensions to our products and services to improve our technologies so we can better meet our customers’ computing needs for the best possible price. So we really want to hear your feedback. Please tell us which low-power, low-cost servers make the most sense for your workloads.