A note about fruit

When comparing fruit,  everyone knows not to compare apples to, say, an orange or, god forbid,  a cumquat.  The same applies to chips.  See this nice article, then come back and read on…


Nice job, DELL.  Ditto Intel!  Now, you might think, “oh wow! A 20 watt Intel Server! ARM’s lead certainly didn’t last long; Calxeda is toast! ”  A sub-20 watt Xeon is indeed an accomplishment;  Intel is a great company and knows what they are doing.  But be careful when comparing our 3.8 (ok, call it 4) watt ECX-1000 to a Xeon.  On the surface, we consume 1/5th the power.  Not bad!  But the story runs deeper than that. Let’s dissect the fruit and see what’s inside.

Xeon is not an SoC (more on that in another blog).  It is a multi-core processor, like the Cortex A9 from ARM.  It does have some integrated I/O (PCI-E 3.0 to be precise).  But it does not have Ethernet, much less five 10Gigabit Ethernet ports.  It does not have SATA controllers. It does not have an integrated BMC for processor management, much less fabric management and power optimization.  All of these need to be added as additional components in the system BOM cost and power envelope to offer equivalent and necessary functionality to a Calxeda ECX-1000. Xeon does have more performance per thread; probably 3-5X, in fact, depending on the workload.  But remember that ARM processors for servers are NOT about performance.  If you need performance, buy Intel, or AMD, or IBM Power.  But, it doesn’t matter how fast your thread or core can run if you are spending 90% of your time waiting for I/O.  And that is exactly the problem people have with traditional architectures today in dealing with data-intensive computing  such as Hadoop.

What really matters is the total power and cost of a CLUSTER for a particular workload.  Not a processor, or even an SoC.  A cluster of Calxeda server nodes will consume only 5 watts each, complete with DRAM memory. At 100%.   At idle it only consumes .5 watts. (Oh, yeah, don’t forget about memory which can consume as much as 1Watt per Gigabyte in traditional servers!)

So, always be sure to check your fruit carefully!

ARM Arrives – Calxeda Shows Real Hardware

Richard Fichera, of Forrester Research, was one of the 1st to see the potential of ARM in the datacenter.  He takes note of today’s milestone:


Calxeda demonstrates Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on EnergyCore SoC

This week, Calxeda is showing a live Calxeda cluster running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on real EnergyCore hardware at the Ubuntu Developer and Cloud Summit events in Oakland, CA. This is not an FPGA demo. This is the real deal on real silicon; quad-core, w/ 4MB cache, secure management engine, and Calxeda’s fabric, all up and running.

On stage at UDS

Larry Wikelius, Co-founder of Calxeda, on stage with Mark Shuttleworth at UDS.

Calxeda’s “Greenbox” (get it?) prototype supports up to 48 quad core SOCs in a 2U package

Ubuntu 12.04, with support from Canonical, is the 1st Linux distribution with full support for ARM as a 1st tier server architecture. Incorporating OpenStack’s cloud management infrastructure, Ubuntu 12.04 is designed to support the world’s largest cloud environments, where Ubuntu enjoys commanding market share today.

After months of discussion, debate, claims, and counterclaims, the industry can now begin a fact-based dialog about Calxeda-based servers. What applications are appropriate? Are they fast enough? How much can they really save large internet and IT shops? Do they really consume only 5 watts each? In other words, this new category of technology is moving beyond Powerpoints and on to proof-points. Ok, we will still pepper the market with pretty presentations, but at least they will contain real benchmarks and measurements made on real systems. We will begin communicating benchmark results on calxeda.com soon.

So, back to Oakland…Running Ubuntu 12.04, we are demonstrating a standard LAMP stack (running Calxeda’s website) along with other popular web frameworks such as node.js and Ruby on Rails, provisioning of OpenStack Nova compute instances, and even Canonical’s Metal-as-a-Service bare-metal provisioning. The cluster we are running is a Calxeda EnergyCard prototype in a 2U chassis that supports up to 48 quad-core nodes at under 300 watts, with up to 24 SATA drives. For more information about UDS, please see http://uds.ubuntu.com/. Remote Participation for UDS is available at http://uds.ubuntu.com/community/remote-participation/.

While exciting to see, this demo really shows just how easy it is to move modern software over to Calxeda and Ubuntu. Literally, it all just worked. The code came up without any modifications. Just load and go.

The Linux community will see immediate benefits from such a server for building Linux kernels and distributions. A complete build of the Ubuntu 12.04 kernel took less than an hour to compile on a single node, 1/4 the time of current ARM build platforms. With a larger Calxeda cluster, a full build of the entire distro will take hours, instead of weeks.

Now that Calxeda EnergyCore has been seen in the wild, you can expect more sightings at a variety of industry events, and end-users shipments will begin over the next 4-8 weeks. Volume shipments are expected to begin early this Fall from HP and other system vendors. Be sure to check our website frequently to get updates.

Who said that hardware is boring? Let the fun, and games, begin!