back to article Microsoft plays with small, sleepy servers

The Cloud Computing Futures (CCF) research unit at Microsoft, officially launched this week at the TechFest event in Redmond but secretly in existence for more than a year, showed off a number of projects at the event, two of which relate to servers. One demonstrated the use of low-powered processors and small form-factor …


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  1. Allan Rutland
    Thumb Up


    Very nice, been running one of those Littlefalls2 motherboard and CPU combo myself. Don't blame MS for the great choice as they utterly fly for its power use, and amount of bang you get for the price. They make a great little package. Just a shame on the 945 chipset, the chipset fans noisy and do next to nothing for cooling. Kind of silly when you get a board which has the CPU passively cooled and the chipset needs that kind of cooling.

    Love the research and looking forward to see what Intel will make on the mk3 version of the board and hopefully will lower the power thats needed to run the awful chipset. Would make setups like this even less power hungry.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    £63 pounds for a 1.6 GHz mobo with integrated processor, sweet

  3. Hetz Ben Hamo


    Actually, if they'll use the NVidia chip instead of Intel's, then the fan would be much smaller, much quieter, and if they'll use something like CUDA, their apps could run way faster..

  4. JC

    Don't Buy The Hype

    When using a more powerful processor, ALSO capable of low powered sleep states, you eliminate the redundancy of having to power all those mainboards.

    It's not terribly hard to come up with dual core mobile laptop CPUs that have 4X the performance and use less than 3X the power because they're using only the one chipset and other support parts per board. Similarly, if you have a higher proportion of 12V current, you can make use of optimized 12V-only PSU for that rail increasing efficiency over the all-in-one ATX counterparts that have to balance several disproportionately loaded rails.

    What's the real story here? MS interest in several times as many server licenses.

  5. JC

    @ Allan

    Actually, the article noted the only fan present is on the processor, but looking at the pictures and considering we know the CPU uses less power you are probably correct that use of something other than the 945 chipset would marginally reduce operating power.

    You wouldn't want a much smaller fan though, reduce the fan size much and you get into issues of reliability, actually a large reasonably thick (20mm or more) slow spining fan, all else being equal, would use no more power, would be most reliable and able to cool either chipset with only enough current to begin spinning, but they'd have to plan ahead instead of using the stock cooling solutions. Either way the fan could run at well under 100mA, not so much an issue if using these fans eliminates the need for external fans. The real qestion is if this is effective at all relative to building channels with one fan at the top of each stack and a larger passive heatsink on the chipset. One larger fan would tend to be more efficient and reduce recycling of heatsink exhaust, pushing the heated air much further away at great rate than an open stack alone would do it.

    Overall the whole project seems to be more about using off the shelf PC parts than fitness for any particular goal.

  6. Christian Berger

    Great idea

    That way they can easily multiply the licence costs as every board probably counts as it's own computer and you need to have a Windows licence for each one of them.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    And when you need to replace one board you have to take down the whole chassis. Honestly, this is a repeat of a fundamentally old architecture that was tried and discarded long ago.

  8. Jake


    This is quite cool, considering the amout of big ass data centers microsoft have.

    I dont quite see them (microsoft) replacing their big ass servers with these just yet however.

    And I dont see intel lowering their current xeons down to this thermal envelope, without having to make some announcement on what is new.

    AMD have the right idea, releasing low energy versions and high performance versions of their Opterons. Maybe Intel should follow suit? or will this namby-fucking-pamby patent world have them all crying like babies over a stupid dummy.

    Never saw the point of them anyway....

  9. Robert Ramsay
    Gates Halo

    nice to see

    Microsoft actually doing some proper R & D for a change. Full marks.

  10. Robert Hill

    Love this...

    Have been spending the past few monts considering making an Atom cluster at home myself, and have been wondering the best way to package them...but MS has it right, on rails and vertically oriented will be the best thermal solution. I was playing with the idea of a common mounting board and "hanging" it on the wall, or even building a cube with one board per side - but I like their idea better. With such mobos at £60 each,, a nice cluster of 5 is only a few hundred pounds, plus a single decent power supply to split between them all, and a gigabit network switch for the fabric.

    Forget just how unimpressive the specs are for each board, and just condider it a really great, really cheap cluster development and play system...that almost fits a shoe box. I have seen similar built with Via boards, but this is far better.

    And I agree, nice to see MS actually DOING some hands-on research rather than just filing lawsuits...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wasn't this the sort of sprawl that one FAT physical box running lots of virtual machines was supposed to replace..?

  12. foo_bar_baz
    Thumb Down

    @jc & christian

    Cloud = data center where computing power is sold by work unit. CPU and OS are abstracted away. OS licences don't come into the picture.

  13. Stuart

    heat the oil

    If your kittens arn't crunchy you need to get the oil hoter.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Google Did It

    Um, let's see... take a bunch of low-cost commodity grade PC hardware, strip away the cases and other "extra" stuff, and then cram as many of them as possible into a rack? Been there, Done that.

    (cue General Disarray from South Park: "Google Did it!")

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