In Search of...the Millicluster

Arthur Cole

An idea for a new kind of low-power server platform is making the rounds on the blogosphere, one that would leverage off-the-shelf components found in cell phones and other battery-powered devices to help datacenters cut costs even further than current blade designs.


It's called the Millicomputer, and it's the brainchild of author and Sun expert Adrian Cockcroft. His idea is to use low-power CPUs from mobile devices, which generally are rated at 1 Watt or less, and cluster them into groups of 100 or so in a 1U form factor. Not only would it be cheaper to build than standard Niagara- or Opteron-based servers, but they would run at only about 160 W total. Cockcroft proposes using Marvel or Freescale floating point CPUs, which are capable of running at 500 MHz, provide at least 128 MB of RAM per chip and offer Linux 2.6 support.


While the Millicluster probably won't be the platform of choice for all enterprise applications, it could be of benefit to small-scale, scalable web workloads, older legacy applications, I/O-intensive storage and other functions that can be broken down into small batches.


At the moment, the Millicomputer and Millicluster exist only on paper, or, more specifically, in the cybersphere. But the reasoning seems sound, and if a working prototype lives up to the theories, it could become the next big thing in green computing.

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