DELL IS NOT exactly well known for taking a walk on the wild side, but the firm's decision to use Via Nano chips in a line of servers has raised eyebrows and elicited some impressed whistles.
The firm has stuffed 12 server boards with Nano chips, Via's low power - but also low performance - chips, into one 2U chassis.
It is a gutsy move for straight-laced Dell. Most of the firm's servers are three times the size - and at least three times the price.
Even when running the full dozen 1.3GHz Nano U2250 chips at full tilt, the system consumes less that 30 watts, a tenth of the draw of most other servers available.
It's cheaper too, costing only about $400 compared to a $3,000 Dell server packing an AMD 2.7GHz Shanghai processor or a $6,000 2.93GHz Intel Nehalem server.
That said, the cheap-as-its-chips system isn't made for mass production, having been cobbled together by Dell's DCS unit, a semi-autonomous group within the firm that creates made-to-order kit for well-to-do customers.
DCS customers tend to be search engines, social media sites and large HPC sites that want hardware tailored to their specific needs. The Nano servers are able to run 64-bit operating systems and seem especially suited to Web hosting.
Dell's XS11-VX8 is certainly experimental, but you can bet Intel and AMD will be watching the move closely as Via makes a nano step at impinging on their x86 server chip market duopoly. µ
New York Times