An increasing number of chip makers and system builders are bringing small processors into the server market. Already, SeaMicro has shoehorned 256 Atom CPUs into a single sever. Dell is doing something similar with Via's Nano. The idea is that these smaller processors squeeze more cores into less space. There's also the thought that pint-sized chips can offer better performance per watt than traditional server processors. With rack space at a premium and additional costs associated with power consumption and cooling, it's easy to see why administrators are considering the low-power route.
They just got another option to consider. Austin based start-up Calxeda has detailed its first ARM-based processor aimed at servers. This chip is based on a quad-core version of the ARM Cortex-A9 design that underpins the Apple A5 and Nvidia Tegra 2. The system-on-chip consumes 5W of power per node, including an unspecified amount of memory. Inside a single 2U server enclosure, Calxeda's reference design packs up to 120 nodes for a total of 480 cores.
There's no timetable for an official release, and Calxeda doesn't hint when products based on its chip might start to appear. The company will probably want them out soon, since there's about to be competition in the ARM server space from a more familiar name. Nvidia has made no secret of its Project Denver effort to deliver a high-performance ARM CPU for servers. There are no details on when we might see the first fruits of that effort emerge, though.