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3/1/2011
04:39 PM
Lamont Wood
Lamont Wood
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SeaMicro Breaks New Ground With Atom Server

The startup's announcement shows what can be done with a lot of simple CPUs, but what they are doing still may be overkill.

The startup's announcement shows what can be done with a lot of simple CPUs, but what they are doing still may be overkill.SeaMicro Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., has announced the SM10000-64, a 10U rack server consisting of 256 low-end dual-core Intel Atom N570 processors. It is touted as delivering the same performance as 45 high-end quad-core processors, while consuming a quarter of the power.

At Intel, they responded by discounting the idea of customers wanting low-end or "wimpy" solutions. Of course, they'd rather sell electric razors than razor blades.

Priced at $148,000, the new SeaMicro multi-Atom system is hardly an SMB solution. But it does have implications for SMB server users: someone has finally noticed that the file server task can be performed with minimal hardware. Soon, someone may also notice that you can do it with minimal software. After all, a file server is not running "World of Warcraft," it's responding to specific, predictable commands with specific file-related actions. All the other PC-grade general-purpose functionality is waste.

So maybe we can expect rationally designed file server appliances with limited functionality-and minimal complexity and minimal power consumption. (It won't run Windows, in other words.) Making an old PC stand in the corner and be a server was fine in the days when you had to do a hardware refresh every three years and always had old PCs in the closet, but those days are fading fast. Cheap, simple server appliances surely make more sense.

But keep in mind that, in many cases, the cloud makes even more sense.

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