A high-performance CPU has the horsepower a server needs to move fast. But when the going is slow, it’s fuel economy that counts.
Hewlett-Packard announced its new Gemini server Tuesday, which will incorporate a new version of Intel’s low-power Atom
processor, codenamed Centerton. The chip is intended to fit into an IT infrastructure that usually handles light loads, an industry expert says. Dean McCarron, an analyst at Arizona-based Mercury Research Inc., said for certain applications, higher-end processors would simply be a needless waste of money.
“If all you care about is performance and getting the most transactions per second, or whatever, you’re not going to go to, say, an Atom, you’re going to go to, say, Intel’s higher-end Xeon
processors. But if you have an application where you need the server on essentially all the time, but it frequently isn’t doing much work, the power consumption really becomes a dominant factor.”
For example, a store that needs to run an inventory report for a few hours at a certain time wouldn’t need a powerful processor, he said. Another case would be that of a Web server that sits sidle much of the time.
“The performance needed for a basic Web site is not tremendous at all. And if there’s a requirement to have a dedicated server doing it, this would be a product that would fit.”
The Gemini server system will include an enclosure in which server cartridges with Atom chip cans be inserted for specific workloads, said Paul Santeler, vice-president and general manager for Hewlett-Packard's hyperscale business unit, in a webcast.
The two main players in the low-power chip market are Intel’s Atom chip and ARM’s Holdings plc’s CPUs, both of which HP is incorporating into its hardware. McCarron said HP is likely investing in both technologies to be able to offer a range of products at different prices. ARM chips would likely be the cheaper option, he said.
“One of the argument’s on the ARM side is that being outside of the Intel infrastructure universe there’s quite a bit more competition in terms of suppliers,” he said. “And ARM is essentially kind of tuned out of the gate for low power. So if you look at how the two companies approach things, Intel basically didn’t have Atom until a few years ago and they basically made a concerted effort to get lower power devices. So, they’re coming kind of from the high end down.”