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Grumble, Intel Atom 330 is close, but not quite there

I have been quietly searching for a low power, quiet, affordable dual core x86-64 processor/motherboard combination that supports Virtualization Technology so I can load Xen and Linux instances for some home servers. Intel’s new Atom 330 comes very, very close; but lacks the Virtualization support and only comes with the hot and power-hungry 945GC graphics chipset. Integrated graphics is not a problem for me, as I am planning to make this a mostly headless server, but we could go much smaller and lighter than the 945GC.

Fudge, more waiting for the perfect solution…. So close, yet so far…

Update: So it turns out that if I have no need for Windows or any other operating system that is not aware of virtualization, the Atom 330 will work fine for Xen and Linux! Woo hoo! Now I have the difficult decision of do I wait for a board with no graphics or more efficient graphics, or do I go ahead and grab one of the cheap motherboard/processor combination boards now?

Happy Dance!

{ 5 } Comments

  1. snolan | December 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    My original plan was to buy a motherboard (Intel D945GCLF2 or ECS P945GC) and put it in a spacious case with some drives and memory. Both the motherboard/cpu combinations listed are between $75 and $95, though I’d have to slap them in a case, add memory and drives, and optionally a PCI based RAID controller. I’d have the fan noise on the integrated 945GC graphics though.

    As an alternative, I found the following fan-less solutions from Tranquil PC, a UK company that makes small energy efficient servers out of the same Intel Atom based motherboards, and they rip the noisy fans off and replace that cooling capacity with a silent heat pipe. Many of their systems come with the Windows tax, but if you look for the keyword “Barebones” you can get them without Windows. They have two basic footprints with the Atom 330 dual-core solution and no Windows:

    • BBS2 5 drives, raid, quiet, low-power NAS server for £289.00 (Excluding VAT at 15%)
    • T7-330 Barebones single drive, small footprint, silent, low-power server for £174.00 (Excluding VAT at 15%)
  2. snolan | December 17, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    A second alternative, though more expensive, is the:

    mCubed HFX Micro

    It is also a fan-less Atom 330 system; though it is more expensive than the Tranquil PC T7-330 Barebones listed above. I suspect some of the price difference is the Windows tax (the HFX does not have an option for no operating system).

    Another option is possibly an upcoming Asus EEE Box if/when one comes out that is based on the Atom 330.

  3. bomer | March 16, 2009 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    When I read this kind of article. A question come to me, why there are so many idiots in the world? Buy a propeller plane and try to ask fly over sonic.

  4. snolan | March 16, 2009 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Dissenting opinion is welcome, but your name-calling an nonsense attempt at analogy will get trashed.

    The Atom 330 is a serious chip for serious work, and it’s far, far closer to a Xeon or Core2 Duo than a propeller plane is to a jet. The lack of virtualization technology only impacts people running lame operating systems, and soon people will be making nVidia Ion platform combinations with an Atom 330 paired with low power nVidia graphics for very low powered servers and/or network computers.

  5. Anon | June 12, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    All very well and good but if you get stuck with the Realtek RTL8111 onboard GB network card forget about running xen on Linux! No network connectivity or at least broken network connectivity. For some reason, the driver for this network card likes to drop packets but worse still, the xen network bridging process overwrites the MAC address of the onboard ethernet card with FE:FF:FF:FF:FF:FF. Result, an unusable system if you want any sort of network connectivity. Will the Linux community ever get a good and working driver (R8169) to go with this motherboard / onboard ethernet card? If they do then great, you can run xen and multiple guests on what is without doubt a very cheap solution and low power to boot. If not, there are plenty of better options out there.

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