Microsoft Asks Intel, AMD for 16-Core Atom Servers

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Microsoft isn't just the world's biggest software company. It has also invested billions of dollars in data centers to support its various cloud services initiatives. That's a lot of CPUs that take a lot of power, both to run as well as to cool.

As such, as a customer, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) would like the major CPU makers to make server processors both more powerful and more power-stingy at the same time -- and it would like them to use Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) Atom or AMD's (NYSE: AMD) "Bobcat" chip architectures -- oh, and did they mention they want them with 16 cores?

Such statements came last week during a keynote by Dileep Bhandarkar, distinguished engineer in Microsoft's Global Foundation Services, which runs all of its data centers worldwide, at the Linley Tech Data Center Conference in San Jose.

"He mentioned that Microsoft has been talking with Intel and AMD, asking them to come out with them," Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at consulting firm The Linley Group, told InternetNews.com. "This is something they've been pushing for."

In fact, a set of Bhandarkar's slides from the presentation, makes the point that there are lots of ways to lower costs in a data center, but that lowering power demand shows the most promise short term.

The load on infrastructure can run high. For instance, Microsoft's server farms already host about 400 million active Windows Live Hotmail accounts, and also handles between three and five billion e-mail messages per day, four billion Bing queries per month, and ten billion instant messages each day, according to his slides.

"In a typical data center for every watt in server power there can be another 0.5 to 1.0 watt consumed for power distribution losses and cooling," the slides said.

As Microsoft ramps the rollout of new data centers, operations costs have been a growing concern.

The company has even designed its own easily-transportable, portable data center modules in order to lower the cost of deploying computing power in the cloud.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment regarding Bhandarkar's speech or whether the companies have been talking.

An e-mail to Intel seeking comment was not returned by publication.

Meanwhile, although AMD officials declined to comment directly, they referred to a blog post from last fall.

"The 'Bobcat' core, although an extremely efficient core, was designed for low power client solutions, so things like ECC memory and support for server OSs (through the AMD SR5600 series chipset) have not been figured into the product at this time," John Fruehe, director of product marketing for Server, Embedded and FireStream products at AMD, said in the post to an AMD blog.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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