Calxeda details ARM chip designed for servers

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.

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    • Game_boy
    • 9 years ago

    So. Bulldozer will be 5W/core (8 cores, 40W TDP) at ~2GHz. This will be 1.25W/core at ~1GHz.

    If an ARM is more than half the performance of a BD core per clock, this will be better than BD per watt. Does it?

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      It’s not that simple. The 5w figure for the ARM CPUs was “average power use,” and including some RAM. Bulldozer has multiple, high bandwidth memory channels and PCIe lanes figured into the TDP, as well. From generation to generation, the TDP ratings are always the same per chip, but actual power use has been dropping like a rock.

      If you turned up your theoretical 1 GHz ARM chip to 2 GHz, the actual power use would more than double. Voltage would have to go up to increase the clock speed that much. It may even need to be manufactured on a different process that makes it leakier, as I’m sure is the case with those 2.5 GHz quad-cores. There’s no revolution going on here.

      Define “performance.” That’s not so simple, either. Is it power and money saved for a single server with a sporatic load, or power and money saved by consolidating more servers into fewer that maintain a constant load?

      This is just yet another platform targeting a specific application, which is all we’re going to see from here on out. No one is going to revolutionize the individual CPU core as we know it.

      • Game_boy
      • 9 years ago

      Actually I’m heavily leaning towards Bulldozer outperforming this in general applications at the same power consumption.

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]This chip is based on a quad-core version of the ARM Cortex-A9 design that underpins the Apple A5 and Nvidia Tegra 2.[/quote<] I was under the impression A5 stuck with the old ARM core.

      • poulpy
      • 9 years ago

      That’s ok we’re all wrong once in a while 🙂
      [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_A5[/url<]

    • UberGerbil
    • 9 years ago

    So many entrants in this segment: Smoothstone, Agnilux (already bought by Google), Tilera, etc, in addition to the ones already mentioned and the usual suspects (IBM, HP, etc). Whatever it ends up doing in the real world, “the cloud” is certainly soaking up a lot of dollars and energy.

      • blastdoor
      • 9 years ago

      A related thought — there seems to be more competitors in the arm chip design business than I suspect can be profitably supported by the market. If true, this means some consolidation is inevitable, either through acquisitions or business failures. It could be that the best business model is to be bought out by some vertically integrated company like apple, oracle, or hp. Anybody trying to make money using the old nvidia/ati business model might find it to be pretty tough.

    • NeelyCam
    • 9 years ago

    Process technology? Clocks?

    First piss.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      Don’t really matter vs metrics like SpecWeb, SpecVirt, SpecPower…

        • NeelyCam
        • 9 years ago

        Just curious.

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