UK hosting company Bytemark has seen the future of servers and it's... er... a processor designed for tiny laptops and desktops. Yes, we're talking Intel's Atom, specifically the 1.6GHz 230, which Bytemark's now using as the basis for what it claimed were its lowest-cost dedicated Linux-running servers yet. An Atom-based box …
I want one!
Darn it - I built a home server using a Via Eden mobo, 1GB RAM, and twin 160GB 2.5" drives, using 30-40 watts. But it was damn slow!
It's replacement is now a low-power AMD chip and mobo with 2GB of RAM, running 40-50 watts. Still pretty good I reckon, but double what that Atom one is doing :-(
For a smallish hobbyist type site/development/experimental box.
I don't really understand why they've put it in such a huge box - those are verticle PCI slots i can see (perhaps half height i can't tell, but still it's big).
Given the size, in a normal 1U [server sized] area you could reasonably fit 4 of these systems, and therefore you could get 168 dedicated boxes into a single rack, each rack generating nearly £8,000 of income (minus running costs/bandwith/etc of course)
Is blade still a banned un-PC word for PCs in the UK?
How many atoms does it take to make a sharp blade anyway?
And then you virtualize those stuffed electrified fluffy kittens and let them rip.
bold and brilliant
what's the best way to promote resource-aware computing?
Another low-power alternative
The company that hosts my email account offers a hosting plan based on a dedicated AppleTV box. They reckon it runs about a third the speed of a Mac Mini but draws half the power and costs half as much.
I thought that was a good idea. I guess they can pack loads of them into a rack too, seeing as they are pretty small.
Bleh. Mythic Beasts has been offering Apple TV dedicated servers - running linux for ages - at nearly half that price. They also offer Mac Mini (proper C2D cpu, not an underpowered, overhyped atom) dedicated servers - again running linux - still cheaper.
Thats exactly what I did with my home server, I stuck the atom board in and it works rather nicely.... Unfortunately, there is so little heat generated now the wife will have to find somewhere else to dry the laundry...
Re: I want one!
It looks like (from reviews of the Atom EEE PC cf the Celeron version), that the atom runs like a celeron of about half the clock speed.
And the 945 chipset is a power hog. Whether someone will be able to extract the atom chip from the 945 requirements is yet unknown.
Same solution from the other side
We've got about 20 2U servers sitting on our racks here that aren't exactly speed demons. I would LOVE to replace them all with dual-disk (software raid) multi-core laptops. The low price of laptops these days and the ability to move services around hardware in virtual machines mean it's very possible for a bunch of our services.
Upsides - low power (hence low noise and room cooling), built-in UPS, built-in console, small footprint. Downsides - crap upgrade possibilities, easier to steal and offload, no redundant power supplies.
Only a matter of time though.
I doubt the power usage claims...
I have that exact board (Intel I945GCLF), in a Antec NSK1300 case, with 40GB 2.5" drive and dual port gigabit card... no optical drive, fans or anything else. It sucks down at the wall between 44 and 50 Watts... The 945GC chipset is a terrible power hog, up to 20W on it's own, dwarfing the 4W Atom CPU.
So given they have 2 full 3.5" drives in there, I doubt the 25W power claim unless they are using a very very efficient power supply.
The box/the price
The board is definitely drowning in that huge box - but the limiting factor in our racks is usually power rather than space so it may not matter. We're looking at smaller cases for when we do start filling whole racks with them though - right now they are helping us use our overall power budget more efficiently.
£45 is the cheapest dedicated server we've ever done, but still more expensive than plenty of hosts. We own all our own infrastructure, don't use finance, insist on a sustainable profit on our products (no cross-subsidies), and we do telephone and out-of-hours support. We're resigned to not being the cheapest for those reasons but we're perfectly happy with that situation.
Nice headline though, who knows :)
No mention of this on Bytemark's website yet. The cheapest hosted server (not including virtual machines, one of which I use) Bytemark offer is £60/month. The hardware picture doesn't look finished to me either, I suspect when it is the packaging density will be greater to make good use of rackspace.
@ under development
It's made it onto the order form, but our website is usually slow to catch on -- shall get that updated tomorrow. We're happy to answer questions via the "usual" support address in the meantime if anyone needs to know something!
support [at] support /dot/ bytemark (dot) co (dot) uk
The system does have 2 x 2.5" drives fitted, contrary to a comment above, and power consumption is 40-45W with everything accounted including the HDDs. Obviously not a patch on something like an AMD Geode or something ARM-derived but being able to install a standard x86/x86_64 distribution is a major boon as you'll get proper support from the likes of Debian and Ubuntu :)
Performance is pretty decent for a low-ceremony web server, comparable with the likes of a Pentium III 1GHz, having 2GB RAM "as standard" means you can look to caching your content to handle hits from El Reg and Slashdot, bundling two drives with RAID-1 as standard helps protect your data.
Our other value-range servers inhabit the same cases as pictured, and a Athlon64 LE-1620 outfitted with 2048MB RAM and 2 x 160GB (3.5") SATA is £70/mo. Pricing is much cheaper on an Intel Atom, because the CPU (LE-1620) alone will draw close to 45W in that system!
Customers who need to tick boxes like 'Redundant PSUs' or 'Hardware RAID' can look to our varied range of more enterprise-friendly servers based upon Supermicro - prices start at £135/mo. We've got you covered right up to a Dual Opteron 2354 with 32GB RAM, storage options also include 15,000rpm SAS on 3ware 9690SA RAID cards -- perfect if you're needing something really beefy.
Wouldn't it be nice
If we had 12V DC in the house instead of 240V AC which
a) requires the assistant of, ooh, a hundred different wall-warts and power supplies
b) properly rated techicians rather than home jobbers.
@ David Cornes
You can get the Atom on a Gigabyte motherboard from Micro Direct for just under £54.
I'm half tempted to get one myself.
Dave, cheers for that link..
Dave, that link is ace, that's a nicely priced combo.. I feel a purchase about to take place.
Great, reduced labour costs when using an Atom
So using an Atom slashes the setup costs - since the chip supports the same instruction set as every other CPU presumably there's a reduction in labour costs whenever this an Atom CPU is used. I can imagine the cost savings of running a CPU with lower power consumption might be passed along but presumably this would 10p or so off monthly charge.
Does anyone who uses an Atom CPU automagically receive reduced labour costs? How does that work? Do you get an Intel money-back coupon when you buy an Atom CPU? If so, Is the coupon good for a percentage of the IT spend or something.
Is there a limit to the reduction in costs? Using Atom CPUs could really drive IT costs down and be great for the bottom line.
I've been in favour of using laptop hardware in servers for a long time (just can't afford laptop hardware, heh). Quite a few always-on type tasks don't require much horsepower and it's often good for reliability as well as avoiding inconveniencing as many electrons.
Yup, very nice. Now, will someone sell me a rack of desktop EEE PCs?
RE: Labour costs
@ Bill: Since our Atom boards are a fixed spec, you bet there's a reduced setup cost. We can build them 5, 10 at a time, ship them to the data centre en masse and just turn them on as requested. Much less hassle than what needs doing with the value or hotswap servers (custom config, ship 'em one at a time, etc, etc)
Besides, the CPU is already seated in the motherboard. That saves 10 seconds per machine, right there! :p
The intel atom cpu is
actually a classic pentium mmx core produced with the newest technology. It can execute at most 1.5 instructions/clock compared to at least 2 instructions/clock for the pentium pro. This is why you get only around half the effective speed at the same clock speeds compared to the ppro family. It was never intended to be a standalone cpu, it was designed to be embedded into gpus, because intel's gpu system is actually designed to run gpu shader code on x86 cpus. They just decided to sell them as standalone cpus too. However, imho intel should really come up with an atom variant with a built in north bridge. That would solve the power consumption problem and allow smaller systems, while retaining the same functionality.
Would make sense if:
1) all those things with power supplies ran off 12V (bit of a pisser this one)
2) there weren't at least some of us for whom wiring a 240V circuit is not a Black Art and to whom it had never even occurred to hire someone else to do it (I do my own plumbing, gas fitting and telephone wiring too - you can shove your stalinist bureaucracy where the sun shineth not).
3) all those things that don't have power supplies ran off 12V (a serious pisser this one)
Last, but not least:
4) TPTB would allow this to happen without requiring you to have a license to buy a car battery (showstopper this one).