Benchmarks vs. the real world: we vote for the latter

Back in June, Calxeda published web-serving benchmarks that claimed a significant advantage in performance per watt over x86-based servers. Using ApacheBench, a single 5.26 watt Calxeda EnergyCore server delivered 5500 transactions per second, compared to a 102 watt (TDP) Intel E3-1240 that saturated the network at 6950 TPS. About 2 months later, Intel spoke with Timothy Pricket Morgan at The Register to provide their response.

You have to hand it to Intel; they make really fast processors, which are appropriate when maximum compute performance is needed. But Intel’s argument is missing the point, the very reason why Extremely Efficient Servers are a promising trend: by right-sizing the compute, memory, and networking infrastructure to meet real workload requirements, one can save a great deal of money and power. Intel’s response is classic PC-Server era thinking: use a faster CPU, and then feed it like a force-fed goose being prepped for foie gras. In this case they added a 10G ethernet port to try to close the gap. But if 5000 transactions per second is all your website needs, or you use load balancing to handle the peak loads above normal usage, Calxeda is dramatically more efficient. That is the point.

It is a bit surprising Intel went to these lengths when Intel’s own math shows that Calxeda maintains a 4-5X performance/watt advantage versus the solution most websites would use. Apparently not satisfied, Intel then upped the ante and added an expensive 10 Gb network infrastructure to keep their uber-fast processor busy. With this configuration, Calxeda is still some 30% more efficient than the significantly more expensive* 10Gb Ivybridge solution. But small-medium web sites rarely use or need a 10Gb ethernet port; a 1Gb interface is usually sufficient for typical demand. Moreover, Intel’s proposed alternative would require two 10Gb top of rack switch (TORS) ports in addition to the 3 NICs (2 for data, 1 for management). Those TORS ports alone could add 10-15 watts per server for the 10Gb solution that were not included in Intel’s math. But hey, it won the benchmark (well, almost)!

Calxeda is focused on providing energy-efficient solutions for real-world problems and we believe that bigger and faster is not always better. Leaner and cleaner can be less expensive and far less power hungry, lowering costs for real-world workloads which can be highly variable. Which is more representative of your real real-world environment? You be the judge.

* Based on comparing the servers w/o disks to isolate the server-power, and adding 1 watt to each 5.26 watt Calxeda node to estimate wall power, assuming a modest 24 nodes in a chassis share the power supply and fans. Note that each Intel server equipped as Intel suggests would require a PCI extension with 10 Gb NICs, and switch ports; 2 for data and 1 for management. These are costly additions ($700 per 2 ports, plus the required 10Gb TORS ports) to the IvyBridge server, and of course consume even more power. We are still optimizing our platform and Calxeda will publish a slew of benchmarks and wall-power measurements in the coming weeks.

Calxeda in the Cloud, TryStack Announces New ARM Zone

Want to test some cloudy code on an ARM server?

Now you can! For Free!

Calxeda, OpenStack, HP, Canonical, and Core NAP  hosting have now donated the hardware, software, and facilities to provide FREE access to HP’s Calxeda-based Redstone servers using  the TryStack sandbox. This is so cool;  you can provision a free server instance and play to your hearts content.  Upload code or images. Develop and test your software. Use the OpenStack API’s on ARM and realize “Its just Linux!”.  And pay nothing.  For more information on how to access this, see the OpenStack Blog

Obviously, there has been a lot of interest about this new class of servers that can dramatically reduce power and space requirements for scale-out workloads. Thats why you came to this site! Some call these “micro-servers” (Intel). Some call them “Extreme Low Power Servers” (Gartner’s analysts). And yes, some have affectionately called them “Wimpy Nodes” (See Carnegie Mellon University’s “FAWN” paper.)

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Calxeda EnergyCore-Based Servers Now Available

We spent a lot of time at various tradeshows around the world in June and the #1 question we were asked was “when can I get my hands on a Calxeda-based server?” I am happy to tell you the wait is over.

We have been working with Boston Limited in the UK, a highly respected  solution provider, for about a year to bring an excellent Proof of Concept (POC) platform to market called “Viridis”.  Boston currently has about 20 customers lined up for beta testing and a pipeline of hundreds of others interested in evaluating the platform.  Boston is taking orders now from users in Europe, Asia and the US with shipments beginning later this month.

The Register published a great article today highlighting the features of the Boston Viridis platform:

Boston Viridis is a perfect option for those users who want to port their code, run benchmarks, and optimize their workloads for ARM.  This highly configurable solution allows users to create their ideal initial testing environments with options ranging from 4 to 48 Calxeda EnergyCore server nodes in a 2U form factor.

We look forward to working with Boston and other systems providers to enable the market with Calxeda-based POCs.  Stay tuned as we learn about success stories users experience with Calxeda EnergyCore-based solutions over the coming months.

Apache Benchmarks for Calxeda’s 5-Watt Web Server

It’s the middle of June, which means we’re smack in the middle of tradeshow and conference season for the IT industry. We were at Computex in Taipei two weeks ago, and this week we’re participating in International Supercomputing in Hamburg, and GigaOM’s Structure conference in San Francisco. In fact, our CEO, Barry Evans, is on a panel to discuss fabric technologies and their role in the evolution of datacenters. Should be a good one!

In spite of the hectic season, it hasn’t stopped us from moving forward with what everyone is really waiting for: benchmarks!  Well, I’m happy to be able to share some preliminary results of both performance and power consumption for those of you looking for more efficient web servers.

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Calxeda CEO to speak at GigaOM Structure

Barry Evans, Calxeda CEO and co-founder, has been invited to speak at the upcoming Cloud Fab, GigaOM Structure, in San Francisco on June 20. If you have never been to Structure, it is the industry’s premier event for advancements in Cloud Computing hardware and software innovations, with a list of speakers from some of the industry’s movers, shakers, and entrepreneurs.  Barry will be on a panel with AMD’s Andrew Feldman (formerly CEO of SeaMicro) and Guido Appenzeller, CEO of BigSwitch Networks. Their panel is titled “Inside the data center: it’s all about the fabrics”. This is a hot area.  AMD’s acquisition of SeaMicro, and Intel’s acquisition of fabric assets from Cray, have recently piqued interest from around the industry. As we move from the age of the “Clock Wars” to the age of the “Core Wars”, and now to the age of the “Efficiency Wars”, the cluster and datacenter interconnect fabric and software-defined networking are emerging as the source of the next series of breakthroughs.

Calxeda will also have live hardware running in our booth at the show. Come by to for a demo of OpenStack and other Cloud infrastructure running on Calxeda-based hardware from the industry’s leading system vendors.

If you would like a discounted ticket to attend Structure, Calxeda can help you out. Go to our website, where you will find a link to obtain a discount code for 25% as a friend of Calxeda!

Hope to see you in San Francisco!

Calxeda demos live systems, starting in Vegas and Taipei today!

Starting today,  we will be showing a live Calxeda system at Computex in Taipei,  and at HP Discover in Las Vegas.  (The quest for the Calxeda Mileage Points Championship has begun!  Next week we head to HP CAST and then to International SuperComputing in Germany.) Each will be running a variety of SW,  demonstrating the SW infrastructure that runs about 80% of the world’s websites today, from LAMP to Ruby.  At HP, we will be showing their “Moonshot” website running on the HP Redstone system.

Why all the fuss about live systems?  Because there is so much anticipation in the marketplace to see what ARM can do in the data center.  (Or, as ARM would say, in the “Data Centre”.)   So, in case you are in the area,  here’s a summary of when and where we will be showing off our shiney new toys:

  1. Computex: Taipei, June 5-7
  2. HP Discover: Las Vegas, June 4-7
  3. HP CAST: Hamburg, Germany, June 15-17
  4. International SuperComputing: Hamburg, Germany,  June 18-21
  5. GigaOM Structure: San Francisco, June 20-21
  6. Redhat Summit and JBoss World, Boston, June 26-29

And that’s just the month of June!

And of course,  you can always visit us in Austin, Texas;  home of the 5 Watt Server!  Happy travels!

Dell Enters the ARM Race for Servers

Dell announced today that they are working with TACC (Texas Advanced Computing Center) to provide access to ARM-based servers for developers and researchers. Here’s one of many articles: . This is an important announcement, since Dell is a big player in the markets best suited for ARM such as Internet web properties, Big Data, Cloud Service Providers, and HPC outfits. As such, this further validates the market demand for ARM-based servers, and helps accelerate the growth of the required ecosystem.

The observant reader will notice that Dell is using the Marvell Armada XP SOC, because, as Dell pointed out, “the Marvell parts are already available in sufficient quantities”. But Dell positioned themselves as “agnostic”, and confirmed in interviews that they are also working with Calxeda.

As the ARM server market continues to take shape, the one constant you can expect is choice. Thats the beauty of the ARM business model! Congratulations Dell! Welcome to the party!