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Intel Itanium 2 processors offer very high performance that may be even higher than the rivals, however, the CPU has one Achilles heel that may stop the chip from becoming widely adopted by the industry: the extremely high power-consumption. This disadvantage of the processor has already compelled Google not to adopt the Itanium 2 clusters for their main search-system, according to this site.

Google now maintains a massively clustered search architecture utilising over 15 000 processors and consuming a lot of power. Google wants to build such architecture that will be scalable and allow them to install additional “server blocks” sometimes in future. It is a totally wise decision, since the company develops rapidly and in a couple of years Google may need additional power for their systems. Given that every Itanium 2 chip consumes about 130W of power during operation, you can easily count, how much power will be needed for such cluster. If Google adopts the Itanium 2 CPUs, they will have to pay enormous sums for electricity.

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google said that the search machine needs a lot of computing power, but the electric power consumption of the system should be reasonable. Basically, although the Itanium 2 offers the highest performance among the competitors, it costs too much to keep it up in financial terms. 130W is two times more than it is consumed by Sun’s UltraSPARC III 900MHz processor and I will be surprised if two such CPUs provide lower performance compared to one Itanium 2 CPU.

In the current situation, Google may wait for AMD to unveil its Opteron processors in 2003 or go with Sun or IBM powered clusters now. It is not known how much power it is consumed by the Opteron (SledgeHammer), however, this figure should not bee a lot higher compared to the desktop-oriented ClawHammer chip’s 63W.

Although the Opteron processors offer numerous advantages, including compatibility with existing 32-bit software, it still not known when AMD is able to start its mass production, given that they now delay the ClawHammer processors intended for use in personal computers. Furthermore, a lot of information about AMD’s newcomer is still to be published. Hence, if Google makes the decision now, they are likely to go with Sun, IBM or similar players on the market of clusters.


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