Calxeda ARM-Based Server Processor Lowballs Energy Usage

By Kenneth Corbin (Send Email)
Posted February 23, 2012


Without question, power consumption has long been a leading cost burden associated with the data center, a condition that has driven server vendors to develop ever more energy-efficient designs.

In that spirit comes Calxeda, an Austin, Texas-based startup backing the ARM-based EnergyCore server processor, which it bills as a "server on a chip" that can consume as little as a stingy 1.5 watts.

"Calxeda dramatically lowers the cost of large-scale computing," said Karl Freund, Calxeda's vice president of marketing. The company promises its technology can cut the cost of activities such as Web serving, analytics and cloud computing by as much as half, while reducing energy and space requirements by as much as 90 percent.

Calxeda's product traces part of its lineage to the mobile industry, where some members of the company's leadership team have served in various roles. That balance between processing power and space and energy efficiency animates the design of Calxeda's EnergyCore processor, which the company boasts can achieve a tenfold improvement in power consumption over the leading energy-efficient server processors on the market today.

The EnergyCore architecture combines an 80-gigabit fabric switch and software designed to optimize power usage embedded in an integrated management engine on a single piece of silicon. Then the varied I/O features and 4 MB cache enable users to establish a full-server node at just five watts of consumption.

As Calxeda looks ahead, the company is positioning itself for an emerging trend of specialization in the data center, where performance density will be paramount.

"We believe that the market will change dramatically over the next five years, from a monolithic market where one size fits all, to a market of diverse hardware solutions tailored and optimized for specific workloads," Freund said. "ARM-based servers will be a big part of this trend, as each ARM vendor will have specific advantages in the markets they select while providing a compatible software environment for application developers."

Calxeda launched the EnergyCore processor with a major customer win already secured. HP committed to bringing a new, low-energy server development platform to market initially powered by Calxeda's technology. The HP Redstone Server Development Platform sets in motion what the company bills as the multi-year Project Moonshot initiative. Intel Atom processors will power future models, among others.

On Calxeda's roadmap, the company figures to deliver its first system to OEMs and customers in the second and third quarters of this year. Looking ahead to its next product release, the firm anticipates moving toward a next-generation release and integration with ARM V8.

But first things first.

"Right now, our main challenge is just getting the hardware finished and in the hands of our customers so they can validate our value proposition," said Freund. "We are now past the major hurdles in developing this amazingly complex SoC and are in the home stretch."

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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