Compact cloud: This server, containing 64 quad-core processors, consumes roughly half the energy of a conventional server.
As the cloud becomes more pervasive—driving everything from social networking to mobile apps—the computers that power it must guzzle more and more energy. Today, startup company SeaMicro, chip maker Intel, and electronics giant Samsung unveiled a new computer design that could make the data centers that power cloud services dramatically more efficient.
The new server design uses half the energy and takes up a third of the space of servers that do the hard work in most data centers today.
SeaMicro, based in Santa Clara, California, has received $60 million in venture funding and a $9.3 million U.S. Department of Energy grant intended to encourage greater efficiency for cloud infrastructure.
Until now, the startup was known for making small, efficient servers suitable only for low-powered jobs in a data center. These servers use Intel’s Atom chips, originally developed for mobile computers. The new design keeps many of the same efficient features but swaps in a conventional server chip from Intel’s Xeon line, allowing it to do more computationally taxing tasks like running the vast databases at the heart of social networks or online stores.
“We were able to address an important portion of this rapidly growing market [before], but by no means all of it,” said SeaMicro’s CEO and cofounder, Andrew Feldman, at an event on Tuesday in San Francisco. “This allows us to address the entire data center.”
Many people in the industry are eagerly awaiting the arrival of servers built around smart-phone chips, which are highly energy-efficient, as a way to cut data center costs. Those chips are made by a variety of companies, including Qualcomm, Marvell, and Texas Instruments, using designs licensed from U.K. company ARM, a shift that threatens to dilute Intel’s dominance of the server chip market. Hewlett-Packard announced late last year that it would launch a line of servers with cell-phone chips inside, in partnership with startup Calxeda.