Bytemark claims Atom server first

The hosting company claims to be the first in the world to use servers using Intel's low-powered Atom chipset, suggesting that such servers are cost-effective and potentially good for cluster computing

The hosting company Bytemark has begun offering space on servers that use Intel's low-powered Atom processor.

The Atom was designed for cheap, small laptops such as the Asus Eee and for certain low-cost desktop PCs, rather than for servers. York-based Bytemark, however, claims the use of Atom-powered server boxes could "lower the barrier" for those seeking dedicated hosting at a low cost.

Matthew Bloch, the hosting firm's managing director, has claimed the company is the first in the world to use dedicated servers based on the Atom. The servers have 2GB of memory along with "RAIDed discs", and cost £45 per month. "They draw about 45W power which is nothing short of a miracle for a dedicated system, so that's why we can do it at such a low cost," Bloch said in a statement.

"With lots of memory, they should take on the disorganised set of tasks that small businesses like to throw at their one super-critical hosted server: a little email, a few websites, a bit of a database — and because memory rather than CPU power is usually the limiting factor... you should get quite a lot for your money," said Bloch. "They will probably be terrible at hosting single high-demand sites, but luckily for us, that's not what most people do with their servers."

On Tuesday, spoke to Bytemark system administrator Alex Howells, who claimed the use of low-powered chipsets such as the Atom in servers could have implications for cluster computing. "A lot of our high-end customers do clusters with us," he said. "At under £500 a year and with 2GB of RAM [per box] you can probably put six or eight of these together into a very cost-effective little cluster. You might not even need to add a couple of database boxes onto it. The type of clustering Google is doing is essentially a higher-end version of what we're doing."

Howells also said the Atom-server option, because of its pricing, would be best suited to customers who have "outgrown" Bytemark's virtual machine (VM) platform. "With the virtualisation platform there are some limitations. The hard thing to do with the VM platform is to limit people's I/O — there's only one disk array in there. If someone is swapping heavily, that causes problems for everyone else on the VM host, and there is the potential for customers to be impacted by each other. At £45 a month [the Atom server] is lowering the barrier to entry to dedicated hosting in the UK. You're not going to be impacted by someone else."