HP will launch servers that use a very small amount of power, based on an Intel Atom chip called Centerton, by the end of 2012, said Paul Santeler, VP and general manager of HP's Hyperscale business unit.
The compact Gemini servers will consume 6 watts of power, compared to the more typical 80-watt to 100-watt server. (Xeons adjusted for low power consumption use as little as 15 watts.)
The Atom architecture is Intel's low power consumption design primarily intended for smart phones, tablets, and mobile healthcare devices. It differs from the ARM architecture, on which HP based a previous low-energy server design that used the 5-watt chip from Calxeda. Unlike ARM, Atom can run Windows and other x86 software without requiring a recompile. Centerton is a version of the Atom chip made exclusively to be used in servers.
Gemini servers using Atom are a mass production design that will become generally available by the end of the year, said Santeler in a news conference on the design in San Francisco. HP is intent on getting into the low-power server market before demand has materialized because it wants to establish its proficiency at designing for low-power data centers, said Glenn Keels, director of marketing at the HP Hyperscale business unit, in an interview.
[ Want to learn more about HP's prior foray into low-power servers using Calxeda? See HP Plans Low-Power Servers Using Calxeda ARM Chips. ]
The Calxeda-based design, announced last November, was intended for "whales," or select customers placing large orders for thousands of servers, said Keels. Telecommunications, online gaming, analytics, and search companies can use low-power servers in large data centers to run applications that can do work through many parallel processes, he said.
Low-power servers fit into "scale-out" settings where more servers are added to run a single job or application as traffic increases, as opposed to enterprise financials or ERP applications.
Gemini servers are less likely to be virtualized than HP Proliant and other Xeon-based servers because customers would get less return for their investment in a virtualization software license than with a multi-core Xeon-server license, Santeler said in response to an InformationWeek question.
"That's not a target workload," said Santeler. The Gemini servers are more likely to be used in settings where users wanted a physical server dedicated to their job. Cloud service suppliers may offer un-virtualized, dedicated servers to customers for more private and secure operation at some point in the future based on the low-power servers. A Gemini server could be assigned to such a customer, without leaving a large percentage of the server idle or underutilized most of the time. Low-power servers tend to do less total work per server but several times more work per watt of electricity than standard Xeon servers.
This month, for example, Calxeda announced benchmark results using the Apache Software Foundation's ApacheBench test. The Calxeda EnergyCore ECX-1000 processor, with four cores running at 1.1 GHz, handled 5,500 Web server requests per second and consumed 5.26 watts in disposing of 1 million requests. An Xeon E3-1240, with four cores running at 3.3 GHz handled 6,950 requests per second and consumed 102 watts to dispose of the same requests. The Calxeda system took about 8% more time to do the job but was more efficient energy-wise by a factor of 15.
Jason Waxman, cloud infrastructure group general manager at Intel, joined Santeler in the briefing and said the Atom's server design was the first energy-saving server that could fit into the standard data center. It is 64-bit, as opposed to 32-bit designs currently used in mobile devices, and hyper-threaded, or capable of processing and tracking multiple application processing threads at a time.
Asked specifically about I/O, Santeler said he couldn't divulge any Gemini I/O details yet.
Santeler said low-energy servers have a different total cost of ownership profile than Xeon servers, and no pricing has been set on the prospective Gemini product line. But the pricing will have to be highly competitive to get customers to take on a new architecture. "If it's not fundamentally disruptive, nobody's going to adopt it," he said.
Gemini servers can be seen in HP Discover Labs and customers may test drive their applications on them. "We think Gemini will create radical disruption" in the overall server market, he added.
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