Saturday, June 15, 2024

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
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 “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 %20”>,
the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter

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