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Dell ramps up 15 watt ARM multi-core servers

Go back far enough, and servers were mini-computers or even mainframes. Even something as humble as a 200MB hard drive was the size of a washing machine and it would thud and thunk as the read/write head flew across a massive spinning disk. Then came Apricot’s 486 servers and things started to calm down. KitGuru gives itself a once over with a scanner before entering the data centre to see what the future has in store.

It’s not long ago that servers were designed to impress customers, based on their size. Big boxes were, surely, more powerful than smaller ones – so the chassis design teams went to town and created boxes that looked like they were about to achieve self-awareness.

But then the electricity bills started to arrive. At the same time, systems became more powerful and the sheer effort of exhausting the heat from a data centre became prohibitively expensive.

Welcome to the realm of low-cost, high-performance server computing – where ROI is everything and performance per watt is the credo by which a data centre manager lives.

While ‘king of the overall server market' is a battle fiercely fought, Michael Dell kicks butt in the Density-Optimised Server environment.

Data from IDC shows that Dell is around twice as powerful as HP in this market, and having achieved a 39% share of units shipped – compared to 18.5% for poor old HP in second spot.

Until recently, a lot of the server market has been pwned by Intel, but it looks like Dell has a younger, fresher model that it wants to bed. And bed in a big way.

The launch of Dell's new ‘Copper' servers (powered by multi-core ARM processors) can run on 15 watts of power with 8GB of memory – and up to four of these ‘mini servers' can fit on a single long board called a sleigh. Twelve of these sleigh modules fit into a 3U server chassis, giving 48 server nodes inside a single chassis.

The University of Texas at Austin has already decided to move across to these Dell ‘Copper' server systems.

Small, cheap, powerful and you get 48 in a packet. Nice.

KitGuru says: While Dell wants to have options, it also does not want to ‘Do an Atom' on its mainstream server offerings – where customers replace high margin hardware with cheap ARM servers. It will also want to avoid upsetting Intel too much. But the market is definitely moving toward a fitter/healthier/ROI-focused model – and that's what ARM offers. Will be interesting to see if AMD can compete here.

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