Feature Article

February 07, 2013

Shipment of Micro Servers Gets a Gigantic Push from Mobile and Could Computing

Micro servers are exactly as they name suggests. At some point there seems to be the need to make everything smaller. Servers seem to be going micro and getting more efficient. Maintaining a data center has traditionally meant expensive servers burning lots of power and needing more cooling than is often provided. Those days, however, may be changing. There have been new server designs that make are parting ways with the past. Using banks of mobile chips to seriously reduce both capital costs and operating expenses seems to be the direction of the future.

These machines are called micro servers, and they are being developed by some of the macro names in computing. For instance, Hewlett-Packard has a project called Redstone, while Dell is developing a product nicknamed Copper. Micro servers are considered to be general purpose computers. They house single or multiple low power microprocessors, consuming low wattage in a single motherboard. The machines employ a shared infrastructure such as power, cooling and cabling with other similar devices. Micro servers can be cascaded together creating an extremely dense configuration.

iHS iSuppli, a Colorado based company that is a leading source of information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape, are forecasting that shipments of micro servers will reach 291,000 units in 2013. That represents a 230 percent increase from last year. In 2012 only 88,000 micro servers were being shipped. This growth is expected to continue with the numbers possibly reaching 1.2 million units by the end of 2016.

Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms at iHS, said “Micro servers provide a solution to the challenge of increasing data-center usage driven by mobile platforms. With cloud computing and data centers in high demand in order to serve more smartphones, tablets and mobile PCs online, specific aspects of server design are becoming increasingly important, including maintenance, expandability, energy efficiency and low cost. Such factors are among the advantages delivered by micro servers compared to higher-end machines like mainframes, supercomputers and enterprise servers—all of which emphasize performance and reliability instead.”

According to Peter Lin, between 2011 and 2016 the compound annual growth rate of micro servers will outshine the entire server market by about 130 percent. It is expected that shipments of micro servers will see a double and even triple digit percentage rise during the five year period.

Someone needs to be there to take advantage of the arena that mobile and cloud computing are creating. This is basically what is driving the need for micro servers. Some of the hardware providers are looking to gain from this includes microprocessor vendors like Intel, ARM and AMD. As mentioned above, Dell and Hewlett-Packard as well as Taiwanese firms Quanta Computer and Wistron are also producing computers that are designed to be used as micro servers.

Software companies will also benefit from the increased shipments of micro servers. Some of the names on that list include; Microsoft, Red Hat, Citrix and Oracle. At the top of the list for the group of application or service providers that offer micro servers to the public are the likes of Amazon, eBay, Google and Yahoo.

In 2009, Intel first unveiled the micro server concept. AMD also wants to get into race as does ARM. ARM Holdings is one of the world's leading semiconductor intellectual property (IP) supplier. Their IP enables the development of low power, high performance digital products. Because of the low power design of its CPUs it is also one of the leaders in the mobile world with smartphone and tablet chips.

Due to the x86 chip architecture, Intel has had a strong hold on the micro server world, but both AMD and ARM are gaining ground and support from software and OS vendors.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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