Dell Unveils Via Nano-Based Server

While we are all well-behaved boys and girls, patiently waiting for an onslaught of Via Nano-based netbooks and low-cost laptops so we can give the, well, you know, to Intel and AMD, those sneaky people over at Dell have unveiled an entirely different type of computer using the Nano platform: a server.

When talking about power-efficiency in processors and chips we often tend to think of laptops and especially netbooks, but that doesn’t mean the server world cannot benefit from these types of chips as well. Dell has realised that, and today unveiled its XS11-VX8 server, which uses Via Nano processors. Users can stick 12 of these servers into a 2U chassis.

Via Nano processors are clocked anywhere between 1.0 and 1.8Ghz, using a 65-nanometer manufacturing process, and only consume 15W of power when the operating system is idle, and when running a full application load, it rises to only 20-29W (quite impressive). Nano chips are also fully 64bit capable, and have hardware virtualisation extensions.

The XS11-VX8, codenamed “Fortuna”, is designed for what Dell calls “hyper-scaling”, a scenario where for instance search engine and web hosting businesses need to stuff as many servers into an as little a space as possible. Often, these customers use 1U servers or simply tower models, but these are not space or power efficient. As such, Dell’s DCS team (apparently known as a skunkworks team) set out to design a solution specifically for this market:

The Fortuna solution was designed from day one to solve this specific customer problem without compromise. Leveraging the Via Nano CPU, we can deliver an incredibly low-power solution of 20-29 Watts/server at full load (that isn’t a typo), and 15 Watts/server at OS idle. In addition, there are no compromises on enterprise features like 64-bit operating systems, 1-to-1 virtualization, and remote management via IPMI.

However, what usually catches most customers’ attention is the form factor. With a size slightly larger than a 3.5-inch hard drive, Fortuna is a “hot-plug” server with its own dedicated memory, storage, BMC, and dual 1GbE NIC’s. The chassis exists to provide power, cooling, and a mechanism to mount in a rack. This provides unprecedented density – supporting six servers per rack unit (U) or 252 servers in a 42U rack.

This is a pretty interesting server, and priced at only USD 400, it’s not exactly expensive either. It’s also good news for Via, which has trouble competing with its Nano platform in a market dominated by Intel’s Atom.


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