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Intel shows pint-size server motherboard

S3000PT is half the size of a regular server motherboard, letting two fit inside a small rack-mounted machine.

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel began showing off a half-size server motherboard Tuesday, a design that harkens back to earlier days when cramming in processors as densely as possible was a priority.

The S3000PT, code-named Port Townsend, measures about 6 inches by 13 inches, said Dave Kennedy, a product manager at Intel. That size means two of the motherboards can fit inside a single rack-mounted machine just 1.75 inches thick, or 10 can fit vertically in a 7-inch-thick machine. The company showed off both setups at its Intel Developer Forum here.

"It's a poor man's blade solution," Kennedy said of the latter product, which featured the motherboard in 10 blade servers in a bright yellow chassis built by Ever Case Technology. Each blade had a single four-core Xeon 3000 processor.

Intel's half-size motherboards

As reported, the Xeon 3000 processors are a server-oriented version of Intel's top-end "Extreme" line of Core 2 Duo processors. Pat Gelsinger, general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, announced the Xeon 3000 models in a keynote speech on Wednesday.

First-generation blade servers weren't a big success, in part because they arrived just as the dot-com bubble burst and in part because they emphasized stuffing as many processors into as little space as possible. Customers generally were happier with second-generation designs, which featured higher-end blades with reliability and remote management features.

But there's still demand for the low-end approach, Kennedy said. Customers use single-processor servers on the edge of corporate networks, handling tasks such as intrusion detection or hosting Web sites or application servers.

And there are cases where two uniprocessor servers in a rack-mount server is a better choice than one dual-processor machine, he added. For example, in the Stream data transfer speed test, two uniprocessor servers can pump data at 6.5 gigabytes per second each, for a total of 13GB per second, but a dual-processor machine can reach only 9GB per second.

The S3000PT motherboards will go on sale in October with dual-core Xeons, and a quad-core version is expected in January 2007, Kennedy said.