Intel's Atom is underwhelming no more: New chip packs 16 cores

The latest Atom C3000 chips also have advanced server features

Intel's Atom was mostly known as a low-end chip for mobile devices that underperformed. That may not be the case anymore.

The latest Atom C3000 chips announced on Tuesday have up to 16 cores and are more sophisticated than ever. The chips are made for storage arrays, networking equipment, and internet of things devices.

The new chips have features found mostly in server chips, including networking, virtualization, and error correction features.

Networking and storage devices don't require a lot of horsepower, so the low-power Atom chips fit right in. Only a handful of Intel server chips have more than 16 cores, but the number of Atom cores means the chip can handle more streams of data.

The Atom C3000 fits right into Intel's long-term plan to grow in the server, IoT and storage markets.

Intel quit making Atom chips for smartphones last May, and the chip lineup was reconfigured to include E3900 chips for IoT devices and the T5700 and T5500 chips used on the Joule maker boards.

Chinese chip maker Rockchip is still making variants of the older Sofia 3G chip, which is now being redirected to low-power IoT devices.

A surprising feature in C3000 is RAS (reliability, availability, and serviceability) capabilities, which is mostly found on high-end Xeon chips. The feature corrects data errors on the fly and prevents networking and storage equipment from crashing.

Intel is also providing development kits for writing storage and networking applications for the chips.

The new chips are already shipping to testers and will become available in the second half of this year.

The Atom C3000 succeeds the older C2000 chips, which were originally targeted at microservers and networking and storage equipment. The Atom C2000 chips recently ran into trouble with a flaw that could crash servers and networking equipment. Intel has provided a temporary fix, but the company is working on a permanent fix.

Intel also introduced new Xeon D-1500 chips for networking and storage gear that require quicker turnover of processed data. The chips integrate 10-gigabit ethernet controllers and have a technology called QuickAssist to drive throughput of compressed data up to 40Gbps (bits per second).

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