SeaMicro puts 256 Xeon cores in server

SeaMicro, which sold only Atom-based servers, adds a Xeon microserver to its stable

SeaMicro on Tuesday announced a new microserver that incorporates 256 Xeon processor cores to enable faster delivery of data for Internet-based activities such as social media or search.

The SM10000-XE server is a 10U rack server with 64 quad-core Intel E3-1260L processors that run at a clock speed of 2.4GHz. The server is designed to provide faster response to Internet queries by speeding dynamic Web applications and tasks such as extraction of information from databases.

The new server is an upgrade from SeaMicro's SM10000-64HD, which launched last year with 384 dual-core Atom low-power netbook chips. The new server's Xeon processors have "heavyweight" cores that can deliver a better performance than Atom cores, said Andrew Feldman [CQ], CEO of SeaMicro.

SeaMicro has been selling 10U Atom-based servers for the past 18 months, but there was a need to drive up performance by implementing server-class Xeon chips, Feldman said. Smaller and fast moving Internet workloads are efficient on Atom, while the demanding cloud workloads are faster on Xeon, Feldman said.

On servers running Apache open-source software, the new servers handily outpace the older Atom-based machines, Feldman said. It is also faster at running Memcached caching software and PHP applications, he said.

The SM10000-XE server draws 3.2 kilowatts to 3.5-kilowatts on normal workloads, which is higher than SeaMicro's existing Atom servers, Feldman said. The Xeon and Atom servers have different benefits and their adoption will ultimately depend on whether a customer is looking for faster application performance or power savings, Feldman said.

However, the server is more power-efficient than a fleet of independent Xeon-based servers, Feldman said. Each 10U server unit can replace 500 single-socket servers from five years ago, while providing a 25-times improvement in power consumption.

SeaMicro's SM10000-XE server falls in an emerging class of servers called "microservers," which are dense servers that can share components such as power supplies and network connectors. The SeaMicro servers can be plugged in hyperscale environments to add computing capacity, while sticking within the power and space constraints of data centers, Feldman said.

"It's going quickly with the hyperscale guys, and they are also the most savvy about matching work to processors," Feldman said.

SeaMicro's ability to fit Xeon chips in a dense, single-chassis infrastructure also helps broaden the scope of microservers, said Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's data center business unit. There are exciting opportunities for microservers with server chips based on the upcoming Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, which will add more performance and power-benefits.

The server includes multiple mini-motherboards with the Intel chip set, Samsung's DRAM and SeaMicro's ASIC, which virtualizes I/O and networking. The boards are the size of half a sheet of binder paper and are interconnected through fabric that can transfer data at 1.28 terabits per second. The server can support up to 2TB of RAM and up to 64 sold-state drives or hard disks for storage.

The Xeon E3-1260L chip has 8MB of cache, includes integrated graphics and draws 45 watts of power. The processor sits on the lower rung of Intel's newer server chips based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, which includes the powerful range of Xeon E7 chips. The E7 chips have larger caches, draw more power and are designed for servers running resource-intensive database or enterprise resource planning applications.

The mini-motherboards use SO-DIMM memory, which is 45 percent smaller and more power-efficient than R-DIMM technology in standard servers, said Sylvie Kadivar, director of strategic DRAM marketing at Samsung. The memory is usually used in smaller devices such as laptops, and plays well into the mini-motherboard's size, Kadivar said. The memory chips are some of the first made using Samsung's 30-nanometer class process, and is more power-efficient than memory from older manufacturing techniques.

The server is now available worldwide starting at $138,000.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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