ARM Powered servers designed by Calxeda could be 10x more efficient than Intel

Posted by Charbax – March 14, 2011

Calxeda Inc, formerly known as Smooth-Stone, is the new company formed by ARM Holdings, Texas Instruments, ATIC (same invesors as in GlobalFoundries and AMD) and others that have provided at least $48 Million in investment to set it up. They are optimizing the designs for ARM Powered servers to be implemented by Server OEM partners around the world. As reported by Forrester Research's Richard Fichera:

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.

ARM Powered servers could have 5X to 10X the performance/watt compared to Intel's x86.

As you can read on Calxeda's website, the operating expense associated with power and cooling now dominates a server’s cost of ownership, and will eclipse the hardware itself by a factor of 7X in 2012. IDC reports that all servers worldwide consumed $44.5 Billion of electricity in 2010 and require ten additional Gigawatt power plants to be constructed.