Are Massively Multi-Core Servers Game Changers?

SeaMicro and Tilera are pioneering low-power, massively multicore servers that could address some of the toughest power and cooling problems for cloud computing platforms. Here's a closer look at the companies and their technology.

Rich Miller

June 30, 2010

3 Min Read
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Low Energy, High Power: A Tilera multicore chip (left) and a 10U server from SeaMicro (right).

What server technology is most interesting to cloud-builders? In conversations at last week's Structure 2010 conference, two names kept coming up."SeaMicro and Tilera are the two products that are interesting to me," said Mark Williams, VP of Operations for the Zynga Gaming Network.

In a separate panel discussion, Facebook VP of Technical Operations Jonathan Heiliger also identified SeaMicro and Tilera as companies to watch in the server space.

So who are these guys? SeaMicro and Tilera are focused on solving the power and cooling problems vexing data center operators - namely, that more computing power has been accompanied by rising electric bills and heat loads.

This month both companies have introduced server technology that will enable data center operators to run between 2,000 and 10,000 computing cores in a single rack using about 8 kilowatts of power. These servers are not for everyone - they're focused on workloads requiring many processors performing the same tasks. That's why this technology is of tremendous interest to companies building large cloud computing platforms.

Here's a more detailed look at these two companies, through our coverage of their recent product announcements and video overviews of their technology innovations.


Tilera Doubles Down on Density: On June 22, Tilera announced that it has teamed with Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc. on a new server that will allow data center operators to pack up to 10,000 cores in a rack consuming less than eight kilowatts of power. Tilera says the new S2Q server will be the most power efficient and highest compute density server available. The company also announced plans to double the number of processor cores every two years. Tilera's roadmap calls for 10,000 cores per rack today, 20,000 in 2011 and 40,000 by 2013.

A Closer Look at Tilera's Technology: In this video, Tilera Director of Cloud Computing Products Ihab Bishara shares the history of the company, provides an overview of Tilera's technology, and shows off one of the 2U servers using its processors.


SeaMicro Unveils Its Low-Power Server: On June 14, SeaMicro unveiled a new low-power server that promises to slash power costs for companies running large Internet services and cloud computing platforms. SeaMicro’s multi-core x86 server runs on Intel’s low-power Atom chips, whose energy efficiency has made them the processor of choice for many mobile phones and laptops. The power profile of the SM10000 allows SeaMicro to pack 512 Atom CPUs into a 10U server, providing the option to fit as many as 2,048 CPUs into a single seven foot, 40U rack.

A Closer Look at SeaMicro's Technology: In this video, SeaMicro CEO and co-founder Andrew Feldman discusses the company's vision for low-energy servers, the innovations it has developed in pursuit of that goal (especially the role of the networking fabric) and the roadmap for SeaMicro's technology.

SeaMicro: More Than Just Low-Power Servers: The initial buzz around SeaMicro focused on its use of Intel’s low-power Atom chip in multi-core servers. But SeaMicro’s secret sauce extends beyond the server. A review of the company’s patent filings reveal plans for a interconnection fabric that will knit together servers, storage and peripherals using hardware-based virtualization.

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