Microsoft experiments with servers based on Intel Atom processors

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Microsoft has officially unveiled its secretive Cloud Computing Futures (CCF) research unit at this week's TechFest. The software giant took the opportunity to show off a number of projects done by the CCF, one of which relates to the use of low-powered processors to take on the workload typically done by standard rack-mount servers in data centers.

As part of the research objective to support large-scale Microsoft services using netbook-class processors, the team designed and put together a half-rack crammed with 50 small form factor motherboards running Intel Atom processors. Similar to Google, these motherboards are not placed in casings inside the rack, but are instead mounted in a way to facilitate air movement and the dissemination of heat.

According to The Register, power consumption for an Atom-based system ranges from 28 to 34 watts when running workloads, dropping to just 3 to 4 watts when hibernating. In tests performed with Microsoft's own Hotmail unit, the CCF team was able to demonstrate power consumption that is far less than that of standard servers - all the while providing the same quality of service.

This is done in conjunction with another project called Marlowe, which attempts to predict workloads slightly ahead of time. This allows unused capacity to be powered down to suspend or hibernate mode for even greater power savings.

For more on this story:
- check out this article from The Register

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