Would you run a server using Intel's Atom processor?

Intel desperately wants its Atom netbook processor inside almost every computing device on the market, from netbooks to robots. But would you run an Intel Atom server?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Intel desperately wants its Atom netbook processor inside almost every computing device on the market -- smartphones, automobiles, robots, regular desktops and laptops and of course, netbooks.

But would you run an Intel Atom server?

In a PC World article, Intel reveals that it wants to push Atom into everything except the server market, the market that serves as the chip manufacturer's cash cow, allowing the company to sell its newest, fastest, and (thus) most expensive processors at the highest profit margins.

Take the Xeon family of server processors, which are available for as little as $200 but carry price tags as high as $3,000 for those intended for four-way or eight-way servers. They may be fast, but they're power hogs even in idle state, which tests the patience of any efficiency-minded IT pro.

Consider this: would you build a server around Intel's Atom CPU, for the low, low price of just $29?

Just where do you draw the line between cost (upfront and upkeep) and performance?

Is an Atom server really worth considering?

According to the article, it is. For one, UK-based Tranquil PC Ltd. is selling Windows Home Servers running Atom; a Chicago hosting provider, SingleHop is leasing dual-core Atom servers to small business customers.

Is the Atom welcome in the server saloon? Or should it just beat it, and don't let the door hit you on the way out?

One analyst says there is potential in the low-end server space for a 'data pusher' server that doesn't need to compute everything, all the time.

But Microsoft Research is going one step further, and testing Atom for large-scale data centers.

In the article, an Intel spokesman clarifies the situation:

"Lots of companies are experimenting with various usages including Microsoft. While some may experiment with servers, the current Atom is not the right fit for these opportunities. However, as we enter the many-core era and more devices and machines add Internet access, our Xeon, Core and Atom opportunities will be almost endless."

But with a global economic downturn, the Atom's low power consumption, fast sleep/wake features and low price take it from being the butt of every joke to a serious consideration.

According to the article, Microsoft Research is developing software that can put Atom servers to sleep -- a particular power-saving strength of the Atom -- waiting to be awakened on demand.

So: total cost, including energy cost over time, divided by the processing work actually delivered.

Forget maximum potential performance. Can slow and steady win the race?

Or are virtualization or rewritten applications better bets, much less avoiding the massive footprint of a veritable army of Atom servers?

Would you run a server using Intel's Atom?

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