Intel Introduces Atom-Based SMB Server Platform

Intel is aiming to tackle the small-business server market with its first server platform based on the Atom processor.

Unveiled here today at the CeBit trade show in Germany, Intel’s new take on the Atom — the processor most widely associated with the popular netbook form factor — relies on coupling the CPU with a low-end server integrated chipset. The idea is that the combination will provide enough power to satisfy the storage needs of home, small office/home office (SOHO), and SMB customers without breaking the bank or fattening their energy bill.

This is not the first Atom-based server, but it is the first from Intel (NASDAQ: INTC).

In its design, Intel paired its Atom D410 and D510 processors with the ICH9R chipset normally used in desktop and low-end server PCs. There are no new chips here: Intel simply validated two previously unpaired parts to make sure they would work well together.

This pairing, argued Seth Bobroff, general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group, offers the best of both worlds for the home office and SMB market.

For starters, the Atom has a tiny energy draw: just 14 to 17 watts.

Even a low-power Celeron has a power draw of around 35 to 40 watts, so the Atom’s far smaller thermal envelope makes it ideal for the form factor that these servers would use, Bobroff said. “Power consumption is a really big part of the equation,” he told InternetNews.com. “Some of our OEM partners have asked for something that would support a fanless design.”

The Atom also seems like a perfect fit because storage systems are not terribly dependent on processor power, of which the Atom can offer a surprising amount: The single-core D410 and dual-core D510 come with Hyper-Threading, which Intel said should more than satisfy the needs of a low-end SMB server customer.

On the storage front, the ICH9R can support up to eight SATA drives, many more than the one or two an Atom system usually supports — and the drives are hot-swappable.

The motherboard also offers Gigabit Ethernet support and can handle 20 or more simultaneous users. It comes with six PCI Express lanes for much more I/O speed than a traditional Atom-based motherboard, along with 12 USB 2.0 ports, a port multiplier and eSATA ports that enable external storage devices to connect to the server.

Here Come the Atom Servers

At CeBit, Intel is also rolling out the customers. LaCie, LG Electronics, QNAP, Synology and Thecus have all announced storage servers based on the new platform.

“We have historically been focused in the enterprise. About four years ago, we came to believe we could establish this category of small office storage with a low-end NAS [network-attached storage] system,” Bobroff said. “We’ve been enrolling industry and customers in that ever since.”

Servers based on the Atom platform will be available shortly from the different OEMs at a variety of price points, depending on storage and scale of the system, Intel said.

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