Step back to Cobalt days?
At first glance this sounds like a giant step back to the days of the Cobalt Raq. They were in large part killed by virtualisation (specifically in the form of VPS/VDS services like our Miniserver VM). These little boxes would only useful for dinosaur customers who refuse to believe in the security and viability of virtualisation.
"Dell can give hosting companies a 64-bit Nano server that has from 1 GB to 3 GB of main memory and that has an idle power draw of around 15 watts and that draws somewhere between 20 and 29 watts under peak loads. That is about one-tenth the power used by a standard two-socket 1U box that is not running at a particularly high utilization."
That is just, plain wrong. You have to go back 3 years to the days of Dual Xeon rack burners like the Dell SC1425 (165W idle, 230W full chat). That is not a good comparison with modern 1U machines, like the quad-core Dell PowerEdge R200/R300 which idles at 90W and is only 150W when thrashing the disks & CPU.
We will be getting some of these to play with / test, but in the mean time I would estimate that one them is about as much horsepower as a modern 1U quad core box. At high load capacity (which would be a 'mare to mange on these little blighters) 4 of them would use 120Watts, which is 75% of our trusty friend the quad core Dell R200/R300 at max load, but quite a bit more CapEx (you can get quad-core R200's with 8GB RAM and 2x1500GB disks for £700).
Also, I bet the embedded carbon of those is still a significant proportion of that for a normal 1U server since most of the energy-cost of a server is in making the chips! Green argument definitely does not seem to add up.
As for your statement, Chris, why are you fiddling about owning your own boxes at all?? Just rent VMs from the cloud a lot cheaper, more reliable, and no faffing with virtualisation systems (we do all that for you!). Of course, I suppose then you don't get to to fondle the shiny servers. Sorry. ;)
Kate Craig-Wood aka. Famed skydiving hosting-biz queenpin
MD, Memset Dedicated Hosting