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5/20/2009
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Dell's VIA Nano-Based Server Unlikely Threat To Intel, AMD

At less than 30 watts, the Nano is considered a low-power processor that packs enough of a punch for lighter computing tasks, such as Web hosting.

Dell's new low-power business server built with a VIA Technologies processor is unlikely to pose a threat to Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, which supply chips for higher-performing systems.

VIA on Wednesday confirmed that Dell's XS11-VX8 server uses a VIA Nano. Dell on Tuesday had acknowledged using the processor and described its new product as an "ultralight" server.

At less than 30 watts, the Nano is considered a low-power processor that packs enough of a punch for lighter computing tasks, such as Web hosting. For companies that need lots of Web servers to handle heavy traffic, the Nano-based system's size and power consumption makes sense. A dozen servers can be housed in a 2U chassis, which can be daisy-chained into a very large cluster.

"A one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work for hyperscale computing customers," Forrest Norrod, VP and general manager of Dell's Data Center Solutions division, said in a statement. "The unique architecture of environments like Web hosting render unnecessary many of the system features required by mainstream IT."

However, Dell isn't selling the system on its Web site, an indication that the Nano-based system is not on par with mainstream servers from Intel and AMD.

John Spooner, analyst for Technology Business Research, believes Dell built the oddity at the request of specific customers willing to trade performance for size and low power.

"I see it as a specials case," Spooner said. "This is designed for very specific customers."

Most companies still need the power of traditional servers to run Web and business applications, so the Nano-based server is unlikely to get much traction in the broader market. "There was a very specific [customer] need, and this particular product fit," Spooner said.

Another possible explanation is price. VIA likely sold the Nano processors for less than what Intel and AMD charge for similar x86 chips.

Dell has posted a video introduction of the XS11-VX8 on YouTube.


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