Skip to content

Calxeda Takes Aim at Big Data HPC with ARM Server Chip

May 31, 2012

With Dell’s news this week of its renewed plans to bring ARM-based servers to datacenters and Intel’s recent unveiling of new Xeon CPUs aimed at ultra-low-power servers, the “microserver” marketplace is being primed for some commercial offerings. Chip startup Calxeda has been working to bring its own ARM-based SoC technology into the datacenter and, with the help of its OEM partners, the company is positioning the technology for its commercial debut.

The microserver phenomenon is just emerging, but it has all the earmarks of a disruptive market shift. The concept was invented to more closely match hardware capabilities with evolving datacenter workloads and energy usage. A near insatiable demand for Web-based serving and content delivery and a plethora of big data applications, combined with the escalating costs of power and cooling, has forced CPU makers to rethink their priorities. Calxeda, Marvell, Intel, and others recognized these trends forming years ago and started designing ultra-low-power parts aimed at these high-growth application areas.

High performance computing is somewhat on the periphery of this phenomenon. The HPC user’s obsession with performance, especially floating point performance, is rather at odds with these FLOP-challenged chips. And for the initial crop of ARM-based servers, there is the additional limitation of 32-bit computing, which cuts across both HPC and enterprise computing.