LONDON – Next year will be the year of the low power server, according to Mike Bryant, an analyst with Future Horizons. However, it will be based on Intel processors, possibly mixed in with some from rival Advanced Micro Devices, but will not include significant numbers of ARM processors, he said.
Speaking at the mid-year semiconductor market forecast organized by Future Horizons (Sevenoaks, England), Bryant said: "Google has over 1 million servers; Amazon and Microsoft over a quarter of a million; IBM, eBay, YouTube, BBC, online games companies and many others often have over 50,000 servers."
He added that the power consumption expended by these machines is then increased by the power consumption of air conditioning equipment to keep server farms from overheating, so that reducing power consumption has a strong leverage and is a high priority.
However, demand for servers continues to grow as emerging economies increase internet access.
Bryant said that Google is expected to add 25 percent to its server count each year. "But at Google everything is Intel and will stay so. They can't throw away their legacy software and they can't afford to support multiple software versions," he said.
"2011 will be the year of the low power server. Dashing the hopes of many, most of these new low-power servers will be based on processors using the Intel instruction set. Despite use of languages such as Java and Python, supporting multiple versions of server programs across thousands of servers is simply far too complicated for most IT departments."
He added that the absence of a 64-bit processor would also prevent an ARM-based processor from gaining many slots in the server market. "Most new servers either require pure 64-bit operation now or will in the near future. Non-Intel processor solutions often save power by switching to lower bit lengths when they can so their power saving in servers will not be as pronounced as expected," Bryant said.
But there is good news for server makers. Intel is likely to produce a "cleaned-up" 64-bit Xeon design which would reduce power consumption. "Expect to see a more efficient Intel Xeon or AMD processor for servers," Bryant said.
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