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Intel and ARM now racing to gain the microserver processor crown

11 Dec 2012
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Intel's Atom S1200 microserver chip looks to upend ARM's plans for the datacentre processor market.

The processor king, Intel, has started to face competition from ARM in almost every segment of the processor world. ARM reigns supreme in the mobile market and its already starting to find its architecture in some PCs. But there is one market that is still open for competition: microserver processors.

Intel's new Atom S1200 microserver chips aim to bring energy-efficiency and space-efficiency to the datacentre processing field. The chips are not as powerful as other processor offering in the datacentre but give enterprise the added efficiency bonuses.

According to Intel, the new chips offer a 50 percent reduction in power consumption when compared to the company's previous Atom offering. Intel also promises that its latest offering will cram in as many as 1,000 nodes into a single rack.

"The trend towards energy efficiency computing is not new we have seen greater and greater calls for energy efficiency," said Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group at Intel, at a press conference for the chips announcement.

The market for these kinds of chips is growing and by getting out ahead Intel is hoping to establish an advantage. Microserver chips aim to fit a specific market that isn't yet covered by processor makers.

According to Paul Santeler, vice president and general manager of the hyperscale business group at HP, the datacentre market is in need of a variety of processor options. 

"In today's environment, as everything goes to this large scale environment, its becoming a good idea to create processors, servers and complete solutions for different needs,' said Santeler at Intel's processor launch.

"It's no longer one size fits all."

While ARM has already publicly stated it has some interest in the field, it's Intel that has an opportunity to take the market. The Atom S1200 news was a big deal because it means that Intel brought its microserver processor out a full year before ARM expects its architectures to hit the market.

According to Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King, Intel's new launch could put them as far as a generation ahead of similar offerings that use ARM designs.

"Though ARM recently announced its next-generation 64-bit Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 processor designs, products based on the new architecture likely won't be available until late-2013 at the earliest," King said.

"Since Intel's Atom roadmap includes new 22nm products, estimated for 2013, and future 14nm solutions they'll be facing the second generation of Intel Atom designed specifically for microservers."

By positioning itself in the market this year Intel has given itself the room to outpace ARM'. Intel now has the advantage of time, and already existing resources, to beat ARM in the market for years to come.

While much has been made about the faltering of Intel, it looks like the future still holds some surprises for the reigning king of chips.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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