Intel Champions Micro Servers at World Hosting Day 2014

Intel’s finally interested in selling lots of little chips…

Intel server lineup

Currently Intel is one of the few chipmakers that is actually shipping micro sever processors. Intel offers two lines of chips to choose from in the micro server space, low power Xeons and Atom SoCs. In a blog post about her keynote, Intel’s Raejeanne Skillern gave some color on companies that are adopting Intel’s micro server offerings. According to her the biggest customers of these chips are cloud service providers who are looking to expand their portfolios by offering Atom C2000-based solutions.

Intel server atom basics

Intel’s Atom C2000 series chips have always been quite interesting since SemiAccurate exclusively brought you the news that Intel was working on these chips, codenamed Avoton, over two years ago. Prior to the launch of Avoton all that Intel had to offer was low power Xeons and rebadged Atom parts from the consumer market. With Avoton Intel finally has a credible Atom-based server offering. Intel’s internal projections for the success of its micro server offerings are very conservative. But with ARM’s V8-based chips set to challenge Intel’s dominance in this space it’s clear that Intel has to get its foot in the door before the rest of the chip makers show up to play.

There’s no doubt that Intel is likely overstating its customer’s interest in the C2000 series chips and trying to capture some good press. But nonetheless it seems that Intel has changed its tone when speaking about the micro sever market. Instead of blank stares and funny looks Intel now seems genuinely interested in offering products for, and supporting the growth of, the micro server market. The cynics among us might say that this is because Intel is trying to monopolize the market from its inception. To a degree this sentiment is accurate, but I believe that Intel support for the micro server market will in the long run float all boats.

Intel server atom target

Intel’s talks, like this one, about how micro servers can make sense for data center use are excellent primers for the customers that companies with ARM-based offerings will soon be chatting up. Intel’s promotion and evangelization of this segment may well end up being its own undoing as it will it be drastically easier for ARM-based offerings to make headway with customers thanks to their education on the benefits of micro servers from Intel.

Of course the lynch pin for this vision of the future is the notion that ARM’s 64-bit architecture is superior to Intel’s Atom. To date all of Intel’s major successes in rebuffing ARM’s advances or cutting into ARM’s market share have been heavily supported by large market development funds or Intel’s contra-revenue strategy.

Intel server atom advantages

Intel’s does have a lot of production advantages and an aggressive roadmap for continuing the development of the architecture of its Atom core. Could the micro server market be the first market where Intel’s manages to genuinely beat ARM on the merits of their product? Well it’s too early to tell, but despite Intel’s early lead the micro server market is still anyone’s game.S|A

As an aside, if you wish to have a deeper dive into the microserver market our Professional Subscribers have access to this.

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.