Micro servers gained legitimacy from Dell today, as the company upgraded its skunkworks Viking platform to full-fledged product status and rebranded it as the PowerEdge C5000.
Dell also announced two new server blades, or “sleds,” for the Viking: the C5220, running Intel’s fresh-off-the-fab “Sandy Bridge” Xeon E3-1200; and the C5125, an AMD number equipped with either a Phenom II or Athlon II chips.
Micro servers are an emerging category of servers designed to maximize density and energy efficiency. They target lightweight, typically Internet-oriented workloads like Web serving. Dell’s first micro server, delivered by its Data Center Solutions (DCS) group three years ago, was a custom-built offering called the Fortuna for French hosting provider Online.net. That micro server formed the basis of Online.net’s entry-level dedicated hosting offering, Dedibox SC, priced at just €14.99 per month ($21).
Fast forward to today, and the micro server space is hopping, said Reuben Miller, IDC senior research analyst for enterprise servers. Working with the Server System Infrastructure (SSI) Forum, an industry association, Intel put forth Micro Module Server Specification 1.0 in January, which should help tier-two vendors develop micro servers. At the same time, startup SeaMicro made waves with its Intel ATOM based server, the SM10000. Looking further out, some vendors are working to build servers based on ARM and other low-power processors.
Dell’s PowerEdge C5000 has some advantages over the SeaMicro, Miller said. For one, it’s based on an enterprise-class chip, not the desktop-class ATOM. In addition, it supports more stable ECC memory and can be serviced from the cold aisle, he said. At the same time, with a maximum of 12 single-socket quad-core servers in 3U, it’s not nearly as dense as the SeaMicro, which features 512 cores in 10U.
Individual comparisons aside, IDC believes “density-optimized” servers will take off in the coming years as more enterprises move to the cloud and more Tier 1 vendors get aboard. Beyond dedicated hosting, Miller predicts micro servers will take on responsibility for any number of lightweight applications, such as login servers. Already, companies like Facebook have said they are interested in micro servers, he said.
Other features of the PowerEdge C5000 include up to four DDR3 UDIMMS, two 3.5-inch or four 2.5-inch hard disk drives, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, management through Intelligent Platform Management Interface 2.0, local access using Dell iKVM, individually serviceable nodes, and shared power and cooling. The approximate cost of the PowerEdge C5125 with all 12 systems populated is $13,399. It will be available by the end of April from the Dell website, or through the Data Center Services group.