Intel Takes on ARM with New Atom C2000

by Sean Michael Kerner

Intel debuts its low-power, second-generation Atom C2000 system on a chip.

Intel fired a full barrage of low-power silicon product announcements today as the chip giant released its second-generation Atom microprocessor known as the C2000. The new chip is squarely aimed at fending off any impeding challenge from ARM-based servers in the data center.

Rather than just focus the new C2000 as a processor for microservers, Intel is positioning the new chip as a low-power scale-out solution for storage and networking use cases as well.

From a performance perspective, the C2000 is a 22 nanometer, 64-bit processor, based on Intel's Silvermont micro-architecture. There are 13 different versions of the C2000 System on a Chip (SoC), with the top end delivering up to eight processor cores and support for as much as 64 GB of memory.

Though the Atom C2000 is being positioned by Intel as a low-power chip, it includes features that its high-powered Xeon brethren have only recently gained. One such feature is on-board cryptography by way of a feature Intel calls "Quick Assist."

During Intel's launch event for the C2000, Diane Bryant, Senior VP and GM of the Datacenter group at Intel, was asked about the breakdown of Intel's business across the Xeon and Atom processor families.

"The microserver segment is Atom and also our high-density Xeon," Bryant said. "There are also workloads that are low-compute in terms of demand that expand beyond just microservers."

While some might see Atom C2000 as impacting Intel's financial bottom line, Bryant doesn't see it that way.

"From a profitability perspective, we have done the numbers and it's a wash," Bryant said. "We're happy to sell high-end Xeons and we're happy to sell Atom SoCs -- it's all good."


In response to a question from ServerWatch about the Atom C2000's competitive positioning versus ARM, Intel is very confident about its own superiority.

"We think for the power-efficient microserver space, from both a performance standpoint and from an energy-efficiency standpoint, we believe this (C2000) is best in class," Jason Waxman, GM Cloud Infrastructure Group at Intel, said. "We're pretty confident about its competitive position versus alternatives."

Networking the Photonic Rack

A key area for the C2000 that Intel has targeted is for use in networking equipment. The Intel Ethernet Switch FM5224 silicon is a C2000-powered solution that is able to support as many as 64 microservers.

Going a step further, Intel demonstrated its silicon photonics-powered rack at the C2000 launch event. The idea behind silicon photonics is to move data faster than what is possible with traditional copper-based cabling.

"Moving photons across a thin optical fiber instead of moving electrons across copper delivers lots benefits," Bryant said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Sep 4th 2013
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