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Dell microserver gives energy-efficient IT shops a glimpse of Ivy Bridge

Beth Pariseau

Some energy-conscious IT shops have anticipated the arrival of Intel’s Ivy Bridge CPUs since last year, and those chips have finally made an appearance in a microserver

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The new Dell microserver announced this week is only the first of many incarnations of Intel Corp.’s  Ivy Bridge CPU microarchitecture, with the rest of the Xeon processor family to follow, Intel said.

Ivy Bridge CPUs appeal to IT because the chips offer better processing power in a denser, more efficient footprint than the previous 32-nm Sandy Bridge processors.

“We’re always interested in lowering power consumption in a density data center,” said Barry Blakeley, an infrastructure architect at Mazda who uses Dell servers.

The chipmaker didn’t specify a time frame for the next round of chips based on its 22-nm manufacturing process. Its current enterprise chips, codenamed Romley and shipping as the Xeon E5-2600 line, are still based on the Sandy Bridge 32-nm process.

Intel expects microservers only to capture 10% of the overall server market by 2015 and estimates the current market share at 1 to 2%.

Ivy Bridge boasts new Tri-Gate transistors, which Intel said speeds the flow of electrons along three dimensions (as opposed to Sandy Bridge’s two-dimensional transistors), boosting processing power while reducing energy consumption.

The Dell PowerEdge C5220 is the first in the industry to ship with new Intel Xeon E3-1200 V2 chips based on the Ivy Bridge 22-nm manufacturing process, which means the microserver can pack 12 nodes into a 3U space where previous models had 8 nodes, and perform almost twice as fast.

This is the beginning of a very gradual enterprise adoption process, experts said.

“[Dell’s microserver] will get upstream customers more comfortable with the 22-nanometer process by validating it in some other environments,” said Pete Sclafani, CIO at 6connect, a data center consulting firm. “From there it’s a natural fit to go up the chain of Xeon chips.”

The idea of better performance with less power is good in the abstract, but Dell will have to put the 22-nm Intel chips into its standard server line before  Blakeley would consider using them.

“We buy servers based on their performance as [VMware Inc.] ESX hosts before [considering] any other added benefits,” he said.

Meanwhile, microservers as defined by Intel, which pack low-power single-socket servers into a compact footprint to run uniform Web-based applications, are a niche product, and tend not to have much of a play in the enterprise, according to Richard Fichera, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Intel expects microservers only to capture 10% of the overall server market by 2015 and estimates the current market share at 1 to 2%.

“It’s the fringe of the industry,” Fichera said.

 Dell did not disclose whether future versions of Intel Xeon Ivy Bridge processors will be available for its standard server product line.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.


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