Dell puts low-power netbook chip in new server

Via Technologies' Nano processors will power Dell's ultra-light XS11-VX8 servers

Dell announced on Friday an "ultra-light" server that will be powered by low-power processors designed for use in low-cost laptops.

Via Technologies' Nano netbook processors will power Dell's XS11-VX8 servers, which are designed to run light server workloads like Web hosting applications. Nano chips are primarily seen in netbooks, like Samsung's NC20, to run basic applications like Web surfing and word processing.

[ Earlier this year, Microsoft started experimenting with netbook processors in datacenters| Another netbook chip, Intel's Atom, is also being used in servers. ]

Dell's move to use Nano chips is part of a growing trend to use low-power chips in servers to reduce data-center costs. Compared to traditional server chips, netbook chips require less energy and cooling.

Microsoft's research group, for example, is trying to build an experimental server based on 50 low-power Atom chips from Intel, according to a video posted by the company on YouTube. Tiny fans cool the Atom chips on each board, showing how little heat the chips produce.

In addition to generating less heat, the servers also reduce waste of computing resources by providing the speed needed for basic server applications, said Drew Schulke, product marketing manager for Dell's datacenter business. These servers are a cheaper alternative to general-purpose servers that may prove too powerful and costly for basic server workloads.

The Dell servers will be priced at around $400 and bundle 12 server boards with Nano chips in one 2U chassis. Each board will include Via's Nano U2250 processor, which runs at 1.3GHz, and a storage module.

Each chassis will contain fewer fans and power supplies compared to a traditional 1U tower server, Schulke said. Nano chips require smaller fans and consume 20 to 29 watts at full capacity, Schulke said. Systems with traditional server chips, such as Intel's Xeon chips or AMD's Opteron chips, generally require larger fans.

The servers will be available soon worldwide through distribution channels, Schulke said.

Schulke didn't say if Dell was considering a low-power Atom processor, though other companies offer servers with the low-power chip. SingleHop, a U.S.-based server vendor, and U.K.-based Tranquil PC Ltd. are selling Windows Home Server PCs running Intel's low-power Atom desktop CPU.

Via is also trying to expand the use of its Nano chip in servers and media servers. Two weeks ago, the company announced the VB8002 Mini-ITX motherboard for media servers that deliver video and audio content to TVs, multimedia PCs and other consumer devices.

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