updated 03:40 am EST, Fri January 28, 2011
Using its position to shape chip design?
Microsoft is using its purchasing muscle to push Intel into developing a 16-core Atom chip for its server farms, according to a report. Microsoft is keen to reduce its power consumption in its huge data centers and believes that Intel's Atom chips, with its low power consumption design and x86 compatibility will deliver the savings that it is looking for. Currently most of Microsoft's server farms use Intel's Xeon server-class chips, which while delivering processing grunt, are also relatively power hungry and generate a lot of heat. A 16-core Atom would deliver the necessary processing power, but would run significantly cooler and would be cheaper to deploy.
The request comes at a time when data centers are beginning to look at other emerging options in the low-power chip segment. Dell is already selling servers that utilize Via's Nano processors. AMD is also developing cost-effective multi-core server chips as it hunts for greater market share. Further, Intel is coming under pressure from ARM-based processors in the low-power chip segment, whose chip designs have already marginalized Intel in the smartphone and tablet wars.
Microsoft uses the scale of its business to give server makers very strict specifications in terms of its requirements when awarding contracts. For Intel's part, a company spokesperson has said that they have no formal announcements to make about the use of Atom chips in data centers.