Next week Dell plans to announce a server based on the Nano chip from VIA Technologies, the Taiwanese x86 vendor known for its low-power chips for netbooks and other portable computers, according to the New York Times. Putting VIA chips in servers reduces both the cost and power consumption of servers — something important for operators of large-scale data centers. However, the servers will take a performance hit when compared to the super-fast silicon out from AMD or Intel. But given the concern about power efficiency in data centers, server vendors and data center operators are exploring unconventional processors and seem willing to accept lower speeds. Microsoft is testing the use of Intel’s low-power Atom processors in servers, and has said it saw more than a 90 percent power reduction using Atom chips.
So it sounds like Dell, which for years was the staunchest Intel supporter, has heard the cries for reduced power in the data center. Dell plans to sell the server, which will cost about $400 and consume about a tenth of the power used by a typical Intel or AMD-based server, through its Data Center Solutions Group. That group builds custom servers for customers buying more than 2,000 machines at a time. Those customers are generally operating mega-data centers with tens of thousands of servers and as such, have incredible influence on suppliers. Enough, apparently, to convince Dell to try out VIA.