Intel is expected to announce availability next week, according to a report in Computer World yesterday, of a low-power Atom server chip code-named Avoton, which is likely to be integrated into systems targeting data centers such as Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) Moonshot. The HP Moonshot is a revolutionary low-power design change for server architecture that is expected to become the industry-standard. The Moonshot servers feature a modular design in which each module is a server unto itself. The high-density Moonshot chassis can hold up to 45 server modules in 4.3 units of rack space that could contain up to 450 Intel Atom S1200 “Centerton” processor-based servers in a full rack. Avoton chips will become part of Intel’s Atom C2000 product family and be used in these high-density servers. Avoton will be based on its Silvermont architecture, and will boast of the first major design change for Atom over the last several generations of technology.
In specific, Avoton will have up to eight core elements to boost capacity and functionality, up to 64GB of memory, and offer integrated Ethernet networking. What’s more, Intel has claimed Avoton will be up to seven times faster and four times more energy-efficient than Centerton, which shipped in December. It will be produced using a 22-nanometer semiconductor fab process flow. More details on the power consumption and clock speed will likely be announced at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, CA September 10-12. This chip is hoped to thwart impending competition from ARM in the market for high-density servers, as they try to expand beyond their strong design footing in chips for smartphones and tablets.
HP has already announced it will use ARM processors in Moonshot, while leading chip makers such as Advanced Micro Devices, Nvidia and AppliedMicro are expected to release ARM-based chips in the next year. A collection of low-power chips packed into racks of high-density servers is ideal for supporting low-end capacity search engine and social media applications, as the internet of things continues to spread.
Intel’s leading-edge process node of 22nm has been utilized for its Core microprocessor chips over the last year; its Silvermont architecture–based Atom chips will be implemented for the Bay Trail platform in tablets and Merrifield platform for smartphones, as the company plays catch-up versus ARM in this market. According to Barron’s source, Intel’s Core chips will be available at the 14-nm node in the second quarter of 2014, while 14nm Atom chips are expected to hit the market 6 months later when smartwatches begin to take off. This is a wise move for Intel as it strives to achieve an upper-hand over ARM (no pun intended) and capitalize on its coupled design and manufacturing capability ahead of the competition at this node size for smartphones and tablets, which offers inherent benefits in mobile device functionality.
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