New servers use Transmeta chips to cut power costs

California’s electricity crisis might be a pain in the neck for most Silicon Valley companies, but it is a bit of fortuitous timing for low-power microchip maker Transmeta Corp. The Santa Clara, California-based company plans to aggressively push its Crusoe microprocessors in the server market, hoping businesses will look to the low-wattage chip to save space and power.

Companies with banks of servers are beginning to make cost calculations against a new standard — processing power per watt, per square foot, said Mark Adams, a sales director at Transmeta.

“A large portion of their expense is related to the cost of powering these devices and the power to cool them,” he said. “There is a density level you can reach in a given space … and traditionally there’s a wattage limit for (server) racks.”

Four companies are planning releases of Crusoe-powered servers — RLX Technologies Inc., FiberCycle Networks Inc., Amphus Inc. and Inc., Adams said.

“The majority of our business is still notebooks right now,” he said, noting that RLX, Rebel and others use the same chips in servers as Sony Corp. might use in a notebook. There are no plans to develop a new kind of Crusoe for multiprocessing.

But the lower power requirements of a Crusoe chip mean that more, smaller servers can be packed into the same space without adding more power-using cooling equipment.

An eight-foot rack will hold 80 of’s NetWinder 3400 servers (due for release later this year) and use about 1,600 watts working at full power, said Rodney McInnis, director of NetWinder engineering. The US$1,795 NetWinder 3100, due for release in February, uses a 533MHz Crusoe processor in a server with 128M bytes of RAM and a 10G-byte hard drive. Idle, it uses 7.8 watts of power, and at full speed uses about 15 watts, including the external power supply. A comparable Intel Corp.-based server will idle at 15 watts and run full speed at about 60 watts — four times as much power, he said.

Transmeta, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at +1-408-919-3000 or