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SeaMicro Unveils Low Power Server

Get ready to start hearing a whole lot more about stealthy low-power server maker SeaMicro. The under-the-radar Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, which is backed by at least $25 million from venture firms Khosla Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, has finally unveiled its server technology that consumes a quarter of the power of a regular server but packs more than 2,000 CPU cores and costs $139,000.

Stacey over on our sister site GigaOM, who provided some of the first details about SeaMicro back in January, runs through all of the innovations behind the low power-server tech on Sunday night, including that it uses Atom chips and its own specially designed silicon to manage the networking. The bet is that Internet bigwigs like Amazon (s AMZN) and Facebook will be willing to buy servers from a new startup to save on the ever-increasing energy costs of computing.

In the world of server and chip architecture, there’s a lot of options for low power and low performance mobile chips, and incredibly speedy but more power intensive high-performance chips. Most chip makers are neglecting opportunities in the middle range. But the problem is that using high performance chips in servers for regular old web page serving is the equivalent of using a nuclear bomb to take out a car: overkill. And the excess processing power wastes a whole lot of energy.

SeaMicro’s technology re-architects server components to consist of hundreds of low-power processors and its “SM10,000 box,” unveiled this week, uses 512 x 1.6 GHz Intel x86 CPUs on a rack, which equates to 2,048 CPUs per rack. The box takes up 10 racks and consume less than 2 kilowatts of power.

In addition to the high-profile venture capitalists that see the promise of SeaMicro’s technology, the Department of Energy awarded the startup a $9.3 million grant, which was one of the largest awards allocated out of $47 million in funding for 14 data center efficiency projects. SeaMicro says it will use the DOE funds to field test the servers. Stacey says SeaMicro hasn’t announced any customers yet, but she’s hoping SeaMicro’s CTO Gary Lauterbach will drop some hints during a panel at our cloud computing event Structure 2010 next week in San Francisco.

Expect to see more innovation emerge around hardware and software to reduce the energy consumption of data centers, which are on the path to consume 3 percent of the world’s electricity. Google (s GOOG) has re-designed its servers to save energy, and Austin, Texas-based Smooth Stone is using ARM-based processors to create an energy efficient box for the data center.

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