Intel Atom vs. ARM: The Future of the Low-Energy Data Center?

Hewlett-Packard’s Project Moonshot, a multiyear program for developing low-energy servers, will apparently rely on the “Centerton” Intel Atom processor for its initial production server system.

HP is positioning that server system, codenamed “Gemini,” as ideal for Web servers, offline analytics, and hosting. The system pools resources from hundreds or thousands of servers, allowing it to pack more processing power into a smaller footprint.

Centerton pairs 64-bit support, hardware virtualization, error correcting code (ECC) memory and other features with low power requirements, which theoretically makes it ideal for data centers that need to churn through massive amounts of data at (relatively) low power cost.

“Intel has shown its commitment to constant innovation in the extreme low-energy server initiative,” Jason Waxman, general manager of Cloud Infrastructure at Intel Data Center and Connected Systems Group, wrote in a June 19 statement. “Our deep collaboration with HP enabled us to create a processor roadmap designed to deliver exceptional performance and power-efficiency benefits.”

Other IT vendors are exploring low-energy server technology, but not all of them are opting for Intel inside. Dell has spent years testing ARM server technology, eventually producing the Dell “Copper” ARM servers set for release at an unannounced future date. Developers can book time on the platform via remote-accessible Copper server clusters, which Dell is offering in the name of “continued software and ecosystem testing and development.”

Dell “believes ARM infrastructures demonstrate promise for Web front-end and Hadoop environments, where advantages in performance per dollar and performance per watt are critical,” Charles Kind, principal analyst at Pund-IT, wrote in a research note soon after Dell announced the ARM server initiative.

Indeed, research firm Gartner recently suggested that ARM servers could own roughly 15 percent of the server market within four years. That could make things a little bit more interesting for Intel as it maps out a strategy for the low-power server market. For those planning on building a data center within the next few years, it could also introduce an element of choice.

 

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