March 11, 2011
Calxeda, one of the most visible stealth mode startups in the industry, has finally given us an initial peek at the first iteration of its server plans, and they both meet our inflated expectations from this ARM server startup and validate some of the initial claims of ARM proponents.
While still holding their actual delivery dates and details of specifications close to their vest, Calxeda did reveal the following cards from their hand:
- The first reference design, which will be provided to OEM partners as well as delivered directly to selected end users and developers, will be based on an ARM Cortex A9 quad-core SOC design.
- The SOC, as Calxeda will demonstrate with one of its reference designs, will enable OEMs to design servers as dense as 120 ARM quad-core nodes (480 cores) in a 2U enclosure, with an average consumption of about 5 watts per node (1.25 watts per core) including DRAM.
- While not forthcoming with details about the performance, topology or protocols, the SOC will contain an embedded fabric for the individual quad-core SOC servers to communicate with each other.
- Most significantly for prospective users, Calxeda is claiming, and has some convincing models to back up these claims, that they will provide a performance advantage of 5X to 10X the performance/watt and (even higher when price is factored in for a metric of performance/watt/$) of any products they expect to see when they bring the product to market.
Claims of future performance against current competition are always subject to some level of skepticism, but Calxeda’s performance models that they shared with us appeared to be conservative and to have factored in a generous margin for competitors Intel and AMD to improve their performance per watt metrics. Actual benchmark performance will probably be all over the map, considering that x86 vendors have immense accumulated experience tuning benchmarks for their platforms and the ARM community is still in early days on performance tuning. When these systems are finally available, I&O groups would be well advised to emphasize benchmarking their own application stacks.
As far as I can tell, this initial peek at Calxeda’s offering reinforces my contention that I&O professionals should include ARM servers in their strategic technology plans.
See ARM-Based Servers – Looming Tsunami Or Just A Ripple In The Industry Pond? and Put ARM-Based Servers On Your Server Planning Horizon for additional background.