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Dell taps Via Technologies' chips for high-density server

Dell's new ultralight data center server uses the low power consumption Via Nano processor.

Dell this week introduced a new "ultralight" XS11-VX8 server for Web 2.0 data centers using -- surprise -- Via Nano processors from Via Technologies.

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This is a surprise to Dell users, who typically see only Intel and AMD processors in the company's x86 servers. According to reports, Dell decided to widen its choices because the options it offered weren't working for everyone.

Via Technologies Inc. typically makes low-power chips for the PC, client, mobile and embedded markets, but the 64-bit Via Nano processor for servers offers virtualization support and extremely low power consumption compared with other 64-bit processors on the market today, so Dell gave the company a chance.

"By using Nano in a very compact and low-power server, Dell is essentially re-imaging the RLX blade with Transmeta processor play of the original dot-com era," said Illuminata Inc. analyst Gordon Haff. "This type of approach has never really taken off before, and virtualization tends to reduce the value of having a lot of physically separate low-power servers. However, there's definitely an increased interest in power efficiency for large Web sites, so there may be a niche for this -- and indeed Dell isn't pitching this as general purpose."

A member of Dell's Data Center Solutions Division blogged on the XS11-VX8, code-named "Fortuna," yesterday, warning customers that the system is not for everyone.

"Fortuna is arguably the most power-efficient and densest server in the marketplace," wrote the blogger. But note: these are not Dell PowerEdge servers available to all customers but are an advancement that Dell is bringing to customer's whose data center is their factory. They are hyper-scale customers in the search engine and Web hosting businesses."

Dell customers in the Web hosting industry typically "choose general purpose 1U servers or low-end tower servers, and make compromises around the density, power, and/or manageability aspects associated with these alternatives," according to the blog.

So Dell designed the Fortuna with the density and lower power consumption that Web farms and similar data centers seek out. The system is very compact: 12 servers fit in a 2U rack or 252 servers in a 42U rack, and they reside in chassis that provide power and cooling.

At full load, each server consumes less than 30 watts and 15 W per server when idle. The system uses a 3.5-inch hard drive and has its own dedicated memory, storage, BMC, and dual 1 Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

And check out our data center blogs: Server Farming, Mainframe Propellerhead and Data Center Facilities Pro


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