This week cloud watcher John Treadway made the argument that the increasingly pervasive Atom and ARM chips are becoming the “ants” of the data center. The analogy is no stretch–ants accomplish great things via sheer numbers versus lone horsepower and are incredibly strong despite their small size.
In his view we are embarking on a new era for datacenters in which these metaphorical “ants will reign supreme and carry on their backs an unimaginably larger cloud than we had ever anticipated. Combined with hyper-efficient cloud operating models, information technology is about to experience a capacity and value-enablement explosion of Cambrian proportions.”
Treadway provides a rich analysis of this “Fast Arrays of Wimpy Nodes” (FAWN) concept and where some companies are heading with this model.
At the forefront of this (re)volution in data center design is SeaMicro, which just released its next-gen SM10000-64, which is based on a dual-core 1.66 GHz 64-bit Atom chip that Intel crafted just for SeaMicro. While others are tackling the same challenges through the low-power army approach on the ARM front (Calxeda, for example), Treadway sees SeaMicro as the leader on the Atom front.
Not only will the range of devices for ARM and Atoms expand in general (from smartphones to tablets) but the ultra-low power/high number combo will start making a definite presence in datacenters in the coming years. This, in turn, might alter the development of application architectures and furthermore, as Treadway predicts, the model could “eliminate the use of virtualization in a majority of public cloud capacity by 2018.”
Outside of the public clouds, he sees this same trend unfolding in the extended timeframe for the enterprise, but it will take a bit longer.
“The SeaMicro approach represents the first truly new approach to data center architectures since the introduction of blades over a decade ago. You could argue—and I believe you’d be right—that low-power super-dense server clusters are a far more significant and disruptive innovation than blades ever were.”