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back to article Intel Centerton server-class Atoms: How low can you go?

In late 2012 Intel launched Centerton: the first in its new line of Atom-based server processors. Hoping to cut ARM's invasion of the data centre off at the pass, these low-power CPUs are targeted at an emerging "Metal as a Service" movement that sees a return of unique workloads to individual processors. I've finally gotten my …

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Bronze badge

I was with you right up until 8GB of RAM. Just like the netbook Atoms, Intel are probably crippling in an attempt to keep their other market going. Virtualisation support is almost pointless with such little system memory available (in the Windows world at least...)

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Agreed

But for tossing a few Linux VMs that just wake up, respond to something and go back to sleep it's not a bad little box. It's a lot less of a pain than trying to build some Raspberry-pi-alike box for each function then lashing the lot of them to a pole. Standard software, standard management tools, etc.

It's "good enough" for a lot of things that might have driven me to ARM. Which, really, is the only reason the thing exists in the first place, so it's doing it's job, I suppose...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Agreed

Yep, These are perfect for things like my remote backup DNS server / bulk storage. Otherwise I have either a VPS with no control over the hardware or a whole dedicated box with overkil hardware. All I want is 256mb RAM you know

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Re: Agreed

crippled hardware, crippling price, £240

http://www.lambda-tek.com/computing/gbpcdesigner.htm

I'm sure data centres would much rather give Intel pounds instead of pennies to ARM

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Re: Agreed

Oh I completely agree that the hardware is useful and good, my post was more a dig at Intel for being nobbers than a problem with the power of it. If they allowed even 32GB of memory (like most PC motherboards now do) then it would easily replace a lot of SMB kit and reduce power consumption as I would imagine this could run a few useful Windows VMs given sufficient memory.

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8 GB is enoguh for a few WIn 7 machines

I run my VDI instances on Server 2012 and give Windows 7 512 MB and allow to expand to 2 GB. I end up running about a dozen or so VMs on a Xeon E5 with 32 GB of RAM and haven't heard any complaints from the office drones that use them.

Hyper-V server 2012 will happily run with only 768 MB of RAM, and will usually only take about 300 MBs when lightly used.

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Too little, too late

ARM will learn them ... it isn't a Microsoft only world out there.

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Facepalm

Re: Too little, too late

".....it isn't a Microsoft only world out there." True, but a very, very big bit of it is M$.

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@Trev - IPMI?

How does the Supermicro management compare to e.g. HP iLO? SNMP traps, virtual dvd's, and so forth. Thanks?

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Re: @Trev - IPMI?

The Super-Micro IPMI is about on-par with HP's stuff, even more so when you consider that you don't have to pay out the nose for it.

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Re: @Trev - IPMI?

Yeah; I'd have to agree. My gripe with Supermicro's IPMI is that the KVM client runs on Java...but otherwise, solid stuff. There's a look into it here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/04/22/dont_buy_without_ipmi/

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Have I missed the part

Where the idle power was stated? There's plenty of talk about average and peak power, but I can't see that number.

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Re: Have I missed the part

thought it was 7-8W stated somewhere..

I have a fanless atom MB in a case with two big disks ruining as the 'house file server and dns server and backup repository for various websites and machines'

It is gruntless when used as a web server doing big calculations - resizing images in real time out of the database was a nono, so I moved that to a virtual server on the core internet. But for GP data string and 'little' jobs like DNS it's pure magic.

I think you have to say this is a tool with a niche application. where you want complete hardware control for light duty, and a single server with no VMs is enough, this sort of box is really excellent.

If you have low average but high peak CPU needs, a rented VM on a fast machine is better.

But this sort of box makes an ideal SOHO/SME server. rather than outsourcing to a cloud, bring it all in house in the certain knowledge that with e.g. Debian loaded up,. its gonna be rock solid for years at a time. And no one else can get their hands on your data...

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Coat

I run an Atom based server at home.

Aw - ain't she cute

Mine's the one with a server in the pocket :)

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Boffin

Single unit power? Think bigger....

Instead of checking the efficiency of a single unit, imagine them in trays or blades, plugging into a chassis with redundant and intelligent PSUs, where the larger PSUs will be much more effective than a dozen or so single PSUs, and then they will be a whole lot more power efficient.

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Re: Single unit power? Think bigger....

I am not sure that logic stacks up. The grunt per watt is not as good as a more gutsy board, and so rather than e.g. 10 of these, virtualise ten units on a better CPU. Then you CAN manage a raid disk and all the goodies, and if they are high peak to mean services, you won't be any less power hungry and you will have a lot of grunt available to cover any individual peaks.

I see this as the hardware where you want complete control, and you want it locally, not in someone else's datacentre.

So typically file, DNS and mail server with mirrored disks on overnight rsync and maybe a corporate internal web server serving up to 100 staff or so. And a platform, to host a small corporate (mysql?)database.

I.e. FILE/LAMP/DNS/DHCP/EMAIL for SOHO/SME.

And possibly remotely managed by a company who can access it via SSH over the internet

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Re: Single unit power? Think bigger....

Having a bunch of smaller units ends up being a lot more reliable in the long run (Eggs, Basket, etc). Especially when you want to patch something (Taking down only 2-3 VMs is a lot better than 16 or more)

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HP Moonshot 45 x Centerton in 5U (4.3U with 5U spacer)

HP Moonshot already has 45 x Centertons in the first available configuration for exactly the reasons and requirements you have covered. Additional cartridges are to be launched but indications have been given on future configurations including quad node so not hard to look at potential counts per unit depending on workload and cartridge used. And all the benefits of iLO and HP CMU.

Good to see an article concentrate on real world usage scenarios rather than obsessive per CPU theoretical benchmarks which tend only to be applicable to HPC and the like.

http://h18004.www1.hp.com/products/quickspecs/14527_div/14527_div.HTML

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Still prefer a HP 54L

While it's only got one 1GB port, the Dual-Core, PCI-e capable HP 54L seems a lot more useful. Sure it's more thermal output, but there's two cores there...

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Re: Still prefer a HP 54L

oh, and a much more useful case

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Re: Still prefer a HP 54L

Uh...the Centerton has two hyperthreaded cores...

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FAIL

Only two usb sockets

Title says it all, only has two USB3.0 sockets, and there is nothing internal. Why is that important you might ask, well I have /boot on a small USB flash drive so that when I do my Linux software RAID I can put /boot on the flash drive and just do it whole disk and not mess about with partitions. The closest thing to a perfect home server board otherwise, well more SATA ports would be nice.

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Linux

Linux and ARM for the win

As desktop computers continue to disappear from the home in favor of wireless laptops and tablets, there is an increasing need for that one little machine sitting in the background as a file server, media server, etc.

Mine still sits in a rack, but that rack is a relic of a bygone era, when geeks like us had "one of everything" in the basement because there were a zillion different operating systems and no virtualization. In my next home I may just get one of these little servers and bolt it to the wall.

Windows is totally unnecessary for this (and every) task. Linux gets the job done, happily plodding along doing what it's asked, and then idling back down. That being the case, why bother with a "low and slow" Intel Atom when an equivalent ARM runs with lower power, faster speed, and runs the exact same Linux?

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How much do they cost ?

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Like for like comparison required

As you note the performance isn't stellar - room in the market for both AMD and nVidia. You really need to draw up some application configurations and load tests for when ARM hardware becomes available to test. The Raspberry Pi comparison is irrelevant as it most certainly isn't supposed to be a server, personal media server is a misnomer in that context.

TPM has been touting some very datacentre-friendly, high-density ARM-based designs which will presumably do CPU-bound virtualisation at less than R-Pi power per virtual server. Can't remember whether they have GPUs for parallel grunt, if not there will soon be Teslas for the job. You can imagine Google licking its lips at being able to use them for transcoding for Youtube.

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Re: Like for like comparison required

If and when a 64-bit Afom falls into my lap...

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Re: Like for like comparison required

A9-based Calxeda server chips have been available for a while. But for a rough comparison with modern ARM cores, Tegra 4 scores 4582 on Octane, so a Cortex-A15 is quite a bit faster than Centerton on single-threaded code. At 8.5W the current Centerton has no chance of winning the power efficiency battle.

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Re: Like for like comparison required

If and when a 64-bit Afom falls into my lap...

Why do you need 64-bit for a webserver or a router? Oh, and how much does the thing cost?

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Re: Like for like comparison required

Derp; I meant 64-bit ARM.

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