An Alternative to Virtualization? Intel and Facebook talk Micro Servers.

September 16th, 2016

InfoWorld recently reported on Intel’s big challenge to virtualization—the micro server, which the company unveiled in 2009. Although virtualization and the move to the cloud are gaining wider exposure, a recent Intel briefing held in San Francisco delved into the reasons a micro server benefits industries with Internet-based data centers. They posited that, “a solution needs to meet the challenge of handling millions of relatively small, independent tasks associated with serving email, Web pages, search and social networking.”

Manufacturers like Dell and Tyan have already adopted the micro server, which are low-power servers packing lots of server nodes into a single chassis, rendering them denser than standard rack or blade servers. These micro servers boast reducing overall power consumption, a feature made possible because they typically share power and cooling systems, as well as storage and network connections.

The article goes on to cite that large Internet companies are taking notice of the new form factor. If and when a server goes down, they add, that workload can automatically migrate to another node without sacrificing application performance. This seems to be of particular importance to social networking mega giant Facebook, which has already been testing the micro servers within their massive data centers.

Gio Coglitore, director of Facebook Labs, spoke about the technology, which he said was a good fit for the company’s Internet model and high-frequency of short-timeframe data connections. Putting Facebook technology into virtual machines within a large-scale environment didn’t provide the economic returns it expected, he added.

Facebook may be embracing the micro server technology over virtualization, but they have to maintain an Internet model that supports over 500 million users, and an inordinate amount of small-timeframe data connections. The company is expected to deploy these micro servers by end of 2011 or early 2012.

Virtualization may not be the solution for the social networking company, but Coglitore agreed that it still remains an excellent solution. The cost-effective, space-saving technology remains a powerful solution for companies that don’t work with extreme and unusually large scales on an everyday basis. And Intel themselves seem to understand this notion, admitting that micro servers would only approach about 10% of the overall server market.

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