Summary:

Facebook’s Frank Frankovsky was onstage at today’s launch of Intel’s first low-power system on a chip for the data center, but it turns out that the social networking doesn’t plan on using the chips. Instead Frankovsky’s role could be seen as validating the microserver market.

Frank Frankovsky Facebook
photo: Pinar Ozger

Despite one of its executives appearing onstage Tuesday at Intel’s big announcement of its first system on a chip that uses the Atom processor targeted at the data center, Facebook isn’t actually planning to use that part in its data centers. According to spokesman Michael Kirkland, the latest SoC, dubbed the Atom S1200, doesn’t meet the needs of the social networking giant’s workloads at the moment, but perhaps later generation chips will.

“We are not testing Centerton. Based on how it looks on paper it doesn’t look like it meets the needs of our workloads,” said Kirkland when I asked if Facebook was testing or using the latest Intel SoC. “But we are encouraged by Intel’s general direction and we look forward to Avoton.”

Avoton is the next generation Atom core that Intel announced at our GigaOM Structure conference last June. It will be manufactured using Intel’s 22 nanometer process, which will presumably lower the energy consumption and drive production costs lower on a per chip basis. Meanwhile, the family of systems on a chip announced today are based on Intel’s Centerton technology, consume 6 watts per chip and cost as little as $54 per chip when sold in lots of more than 100. But apparently that’s not enough for Facebook, which despite its decision not to use Intel’s wimpy cores, is a big buyer of Intel’s brawnier chips.

When Frank Frankovsky, the VP of hardware design and supply chain for Facebook spoke onstage today at the Intel launch, he hyped wimpy cores in general and spent a lot of time driving home the point that they can deliver the right mix of performance and energy consumption for a lower cost. He did however spend a lot of time focusing on those lowered costs — something Intel may not want to emphasize given worries about how this segment might affect its overall margins.

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