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NVIDIA Ready To Take ARM To Data Centers

by on January 18, 2011

With the blizzard of new gadget announcements emanating from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, it was easy to miss the one from graphics notable Nvidia about its intentions to build a high-performance, multi-core ARM-based processor.

Computer_chip The project is called Project Denver and would produce a processor that would be integrated with an Nvidia graphics processor on a single chip. Nvidia expects the chip to be used in a variety of devices, including servers. That could be good news for data center designers who have been looking at ARM processors as a way to make their facilities greener.

In any data center, a significant number of servers are running at a fraction of their capacity at any one time. Moreover, the high-performance processors in those servers are rarely—if ever—taxed by a data center’s demands. Nevertheless, those processors still draw lots of power even when they’re operating as less than full capacity. ARM processors, which are commonly used in power sipping devices like mobile phones, would consume less energy, even if you have to enlist an army of them to perform the tasks of a high-powered chip.

“This is the opening that the vendors of the ARM, and potentially, Atom powered servers are targeting,” David Chernicoff wrote in his ZDNet blog. “Servers that can deliver equivalent performance for these mid-performance applications while also delivering significant energy savings (numbers like 75 percent are being bandied about).”

Computing has been a prisoner of processors using the X86 instruction set for too long, according to Nvidia. “Denver frees PCs, workstations and servers from the hegemony and inefficiency of the x86 architecture,” declared Nvidia Chief Scientist Bill Dally in the company’s blog.

“The result is that future systems—from the thinnest laptops to the biggest data centers, and everything in between—will deliver an outstanding combination of performance and power efficiency,” he added.

What do you think? What effect do you think Nvidia’s announcement will have? Is this the start or more ARM-based processors in the data center?

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