Is That a Web Server in Your Pocket?

Dell has been a notoriously loyal Intel customer, but on Thursday it went way off the beaten path and introduced Web servers based on VIA Technologies' Nano processor. The Nano, usually used in netbooks or embedded systems, turned out to be just the ticket for this specific server need.

Need a low-power Web server? Dell's latest offering, a VIA-based product, has a small footprint for both power consumption and real-estate. And it's not the only one of its kind.

Dell said it had been approached by large customers in the Web hosting space asking for consumer-facing Web servers that didn't draw a lot of power and require only a fraction of the processing power typically found in servers.

"This is not an overly taxing workload. As Moore's Law took off and compute power took off, they were stranding compute cycles and buying servers that were overperforming for the task at hand," Drew Schulke, product marketing manager in Dell's data center solutions division, told InternetNews.com.

A Xeon from Intel or Opteron from AMD was pretty much overkill. These high-performance processors would often run at single-digit utilization on Web servers since most of their work was I/O-related, and even the low-power versions of these server processors, which can get down to 40 watts, was too much.

Dell's goal was a server that consumed a maximum of 30 watts, total. That's what it got in the XS11-VX8, the formal name for the Nano-based server.

"We got there with the Nano, and that's at full load. The idle power on these swings down to 15 watts," Schulke said.

What Dell also liked about the Nano is that it still has enterprise features that Intel's Atom doesn't have, such as support for 64-bit operating systems and hardware-based virtualization.

Just two weeks ago, Taiwan OEM Supermicro announced the first Atom server. It's a rack-mounted server meant for low-power uses, similar to the XS-11-VX8.

The servers are not much bigger than a 3.5-inch hard drive. A dozen can be fit into a 2U rackmount chassis. They come with a maximum of 3GB of memory, room for a 2.5-inch drive plus an iSCSI connector and two 1Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The line is not generally available, however. It is for a limited number of accounts, around 40 worldwide, sold directly by Dell.

"The customers we target buy in the volume to justify it. We've built product for a single customer before and done so profitably," Schulke said.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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This article was originally published on May 22, 2009
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