Servers aren't what they used to be, and they're quickly evolving into many new designs. On PCMag.com, Michael J. Miller has written a quick survey of the server landscape, driving home the point that servers with lots of CPUs may soon become servers with lots of GPUs.
The graphics processors we have on our computers today are, in fact, very powerful compute engines, often with dozens or hundreds of small 'cores' or engines capable of doing lots of little things at once. Instead of just using those graphics processors for just painting polygons on a screen, why not use them to do all sorts of other things?
Miller outlines the latest efforts by Intel to push its Xeon 5600 and 7500 series of processors into servers, with more advanced CPUs soon to come. AMD has the Opteron 4100 and 6100 series of CPUs in its product line, and its next iteration, code-named Bulldozer, is coming in August. More from Miller:
There are differences in design. Intel pushing multiple threads, AMD pushing more cores; and differences in technology: Intel's Westmere family is on 32nm, while AMD is on 45nm. But in both cases, the strategy is pretty similar: more x86 cores, using less power each on a single chip. This is being driven by the push toward server virtualization, which lets companies run many virtual machines on a single processor.
If you'll be collecting server specs for purchases next year, a few minutes with Miller's analysis will get you up to speed on what you'll be looking at when it's time to shop. This technology isn't always easy to understand, but the good news is that after all these years it's still getting faster and cheaper.
-- Don Willmott