Calxeda’s approach to driving power optimization in the datacenter goes well beyond the processor. We focus on enabling our partners to achieve rack level power efficiency based on our technology. Last week, Boston Limited announced their 2U Viridis platform with 24 Calxeda EnergyCore(TM) server nodes, 96GB of memory, and 6TB storage is measuring 130W “at the wall”. This equates to just 5.5W of power per server inclusive of memory, disk and chassis-level overhead. At a fraction of the power of a traditional x86 server node, the Viridis server cluster based on Calxeda EnergyCore will allow datacenter operators to experience an order of magnitude improvement in efficiency. [Read more...]
Today’s Dell announcement of their donation to the Apache Software Foundation is a huge milestone not only for Calxeda but the entire ARM server ecosystem. Supporting and engaging the open-source community has always been a high priority for the Round Rock based company, evidenced by their contributions and leadership in multiple open-source projects like OpenStack and other Apache projects. But this particular announcement is more than just a generous donation to a non-profit foundation.
BY Stacey Higginbotham
Oct 8, 2012 – 7:01PM PT
Calxeda, a company making dense, low-power servers using the same ARM chip architecture found in cell phones, has raised $55 million to take on Intel as well as the myriad other vendors that want to take ARM’s low power chips and cram them into servers,
Calxeda, the Austin, Texas-based chip firm that’s using cell phone chips to build servers, has raised $55 million more from new investors that include Austin Ventures and Vulcan Capital, as well as the firm’s existing investors. The company, which just this month said its servers would be in production by the end of the year, had previously raised $48 million in a uniquely structured round designed to get the company all the way to actual customers.
The idea of using ARM-based chips in the data center has gained ground as customers who own giant data centers have focused on making their servers more efficient. In several use cases, from serving web pages to some big data applications, using many smaller cores is more energy-efficient that using a few massive cores. It’s part of a larger trend toward matching the server hardware to the workload, recognized by Calxeda’s CEO Barry Evans (pictured) all the way back in 2008 when he started working on the company that became Calxeda.
The additional funds will no doubt help the company in what will be a slog against a variety of other vendors who also have ARM licensees and see the opportunity in the server market. For example, Calxeda already has deals with server manufacturers such as HP to produce gear that contains its boards, but Dell so far is hedging its bets with a server that uses an ARM design from Marvell.
Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, notes that software expertise and specialization will determine who succeeds in this market. He says via email:
As in smartphones, the most successful ARM-based server SoC [system on a chip] and platform vendors need to bring software expertise to the game. Some vendors will only bring chip technology to the market which won’t really make a dent in the x86 world. Those like Calxeda who are optimizing for the rack and not just the chip will do well in specialized sections of the new class of exascale data centers.
Calxeda’s technology aims to cram as many as 288 quad-core servers using ARM-based chips in a 4U box with a specially made ASIC that handles the network between that multitude of chips. It’s a similar strategy as the one employed by SeaMicro, a company making a similar box using Intel’s low-power Atom chips, which was purchased by AMD earlier this year. As someone wo’s been anticipating the use of alternative processors in the data center since 2008, I’m excited to see the use of ARM cores and even GPUs gaining ground in production environments. Welcome to the era of heterogeneous computing. Looks like Calxeda’s latest investors recognize that it’s here.
Remember how smoothly Apple transitioned from PowerPC chips to X86 back in the mid 2000’s? Customers hardly noticed that all their software “just worked” on a completely different ISA, thanks to some cool software built by “Transitive”, a small UK based company since gobbled up by IBM. Well, emulation doesn’t solve ALL the worlds problems, and critical applications will of course need to go native for maximum performance. But this approach can be very helpful with the CAO, or Computer Aided Other; the ancillary but important applications, tools, and utilities that are so pervasive in a datacenter.
Below is an excerpt from the EE Times article, ARM Gets Weapon in Server Battle Vs. Intel.
Russian engineers are developing software to run x86 programs on ARM-based servers. If successful, the software could help lower one of the biggest barriers ARM SoC makers face getting their chips adopted as alternatives to Intel x86 processors that dominate today’s server market.
Elbrus Technologies has developed emulation software that delivers 40 percent of current x86 performance. The company believes it could reach 80 percent native x86 performance or greater by the end of 2014. Analysts and ARM execs described the code as a significant, but limited option.
A growing list of companies–including Applied Micro, Calxeda, Cavium, Marvell, Nvidia and Samsung-aim to replace Intel CPUs with ARM SoCs that pack more functions and consume less power. One of their biggest hurdles is their chips do not support the wealth of server software that runs on the x86.
The Elbrus emulation code could help lower that barrier. The team will present a paper on its work at the ARM TechCon in Santa Clara, Calif., Oct. 30-Nov. 1.
The team’s software uses 1 Mbyte of memory. “What is more exciting is the fact that the memory footprint will have weak dependence on the number of applications that are being run in emulation mode,” Anatoly Konukhov, a member of the Elbrus team, said in an e-mail exchange.
The team has developed a binary translator that acts as an emulator, and plans to create an optimization process for it.
“Currently, we are creating a binary translator which allows us to run applications,” Konukhov said. “Implementation of an optimization process will start in parallel later this year–we’re expecting both parts be ready in the end of 2014.”
Work on the software started in 2010. Last summer, Elbrus got $1.3 million in funding from the Russian investment fund Skolkovo and MCST, a veteran Russian processor and software developer. MCST also is providing developers for the [Elbrus] project. Emulation is typically used when the new architecture has higher performance than the old one, which is not the case-at least today–moving from the x86 to ARM. “By the time this software is out in 2014 you could see chips using ARM’s V8, 64-bit architecture,” Krewell noted. “That said, you will lose some of the power efficiency of ARM when doing emulation,” Krewell said. “Once you lose 20 or more percent of efficiency, you put ARM on par with an x86,” he added. Emulation “isn’t the ideal approach for all situations,” said Ian Ferguson, director for server systems and ecosystem at ARM. “For example, I expect native apps to be the main solution for Web 2.0 companies that write their own code in high level languages, but in some areas of enterprise servers and embedded computing emulation might be interesting,” he said.