Could AMD's SeaMicro Servers One-Up Intel in the Cloud?
By Jennifer LeClaire / Top Tech News. Updated October 31, 2012.
AMD is pushing hard with its SeaMicro fabric. In September it rolled out the SeaMicro SM15000 Server and just two weeks ago it launched a Citrix Ready version of the technology. Indeed, AMD is pushing deeper into the cloud.
AMD's dense servers using ARM-based processors won't hit the market until 2014, but that may be just the right timing as cloud computing continues to grow exponentially. AMD's cloud edge may help it compete with Intel, despite the fact that ARM architecture isn't as powerful as x86.
AMD is positioning SeaMicro SM15000 as the highest-density, most energy-efficient data center platform. It combines compute, networking, and storage in a 10-rack unit system all linked by a high-performance supercompute fabric. But can it compete with Intel? Some analysts said it may be a strong bet in the cloud era.
Big Data Bets
AMD is marketing its differentiated technology to cloud-oriented customers, pushing messages about how it allows the highest performance, compute and storage density as well as the most bandwidth per unit compute of any micro server.
For example, the recently announced AMD SeaMicro SM15000 server extends the patented Freedom Fabric beyond the SeaMicro chassis to connect directly to massive disk arrays. The Freedom Fabric ASIC contains three key patented technologies: SeaMicro's Input/Output Virtualization Technology; SeaMicro's TIO (Turn It Off); and the Freedom Supercompute Fabric, which is built of multiple Freedom ASICs working together to create a multi-dimensional torus to deliver a low-latency, massive bandwidth fabric with exceptionally low power draw.
Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, said one key aspect of cloud computing and Big Data analysis that underlies much of what companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon do is its sparse nature.
"As people with mobile phones and Apple iPads pile photos and tweets onto these platforms, vast data stores are formed that need to be picked over by programs," Kay told us. "The picking itself can be quite simple: find the data item, read it, and pass it somewhere. But the amount of searching can be enormous."
This type of task is exactly what dense ARM servers will be good at. Kay said "bazillions" of tiny cores can all go out at once to the far reaches of the storage pool, looking for the same thing. When one finds it, it can signal the others to call off the search party, he explained. And, like an ant colony, the power of this architecture is not in the individual ants but in the colony itself, which, collectively, is much smarter than the individual.
"It's cheaper, faster, and more efficient to send a whole lot of little cores out at once than to have a few big ones attempt the same task. Thus, once they have 64-bit architecture, dense ARM servers are just the ticket for a fair chunk of tomorrow's cloud computing," Kay said.
"Now, with SeaMicro's fabric, ARM's low-power processors, and its own heterogeneous system-on-a-chip architecture -- not to mention process technology from its brother from another mother, Globalfoundries, which has been making ARM processors for other customers for a while now -- AMD is well positioned to take a leadership role in this burgeoning market."