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Intel debuts low-power server chip

Chipmaker starts shipping "Sossaman" version of Xeon, which is lower voltage and consumes less power than its predecessors.

Intel announced "Sossaman" on Tuesday, a low-voltage version of its Xeon server processors that consumes between a third and a fifth the amount of electrical power as its brethren.

The dual-core chip, called Xeon LV as expected, consumes a maximum of 31 watts of power compared with a range of . In quantities of 1,000, it costs $423 for a 2GHz model and $209 for a 1.6GHz model.

The chip is a response to growing problems of power consumption and resulting waste heat in the data center. Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices has made inroads in the server market, in part because its chips are more power-efficient, analysts say.

Xeon LV is based on the Core Duo "Yonah" processor for mobile PCs but is augmented so it can run in dual-processor configurations and employ error-correcting memory transfer technology. However, it has a significant limitation compared with other Xeon models: It's only a 32-bit chip where its higher-end brethren are 64-bit.

In practice, it's not a major drawback because most servers still run 32-bit software, particularly the lower-end models that Xeon LV is aimed for, and don't require the large amounts of memory that 64-bit addressing permits.

However, the 32-bit design is one reason the top seller of x86 servers, Hewlett-Packard, decided not to build any machines using the first-generation Xeon LV. IBM concluded otherwise and includes the chip in a blade server that fits into its BladeCenter chassis. And HP is building some special-purpose machines for the telecommunications market using the Xeon LV.

In any event, a 64-bit replacement is due soon. Intel executives said at the Intel Developer Forum last week that the chipmaker will introduce a more powerful low-voltage successor based on the "Woodcrest" Xeon in the third quarter.