BEIJING, China – Flying into Beijing from Shenzhen late last week, one of the last people I expected to see was Barry Evans, the brains behind the famed Xscale processor SoC. Evans today is co-founder and CEO at Calxeda, promoting his company’s ARM-based chips in a diversified server market whose applications range from web, storage and analytics services.
When I met him, the first question that popped into my mind was: What’s a Texas startup doing in China?
That probably was a dumb question. Every startup in the U.S. these days has to have a China strategy if it has any hope of getting funded. China’s “where the supply engine is,” said Bob Baughman, vice president of sales and business development at Calxeda, who accompanied Evans on the China mission.
Calxeda senior executives were here last week essentially to talk to telecom and Internet service providers, as well as OEMs and ODMs.
Evans described “heat” and “tight space” as two challenges every Internet-based service company is facing. “These challenges are universal,” he said.
Calxeda isn’t alone in the ARM-based SoC market for servers any more. More chip vendors like Applied Micro and Cavium are gunning for the market with 64-bit ARM CPU-based SoCs. “We don’t have to feel so lonely anymore,” said Evans.
Calxeda CEO Barry Evans at a hotel lobby in Beijing
While that means more competition, the good news is that a loose coalition is emerging within the ARM-based server ecosystem, Baughman explained.
Within the ecosystem, an operating system and tool support are available for Ubuntu and Fedora, in addition to full Java support and application middleware solutions. “All the plumbing is essentially being done,” Baughman said, “so that we can focus more on developing features and technologies that make our SoCs run faster.”
In contrast, look at MIPS architecture-based SoCs, Baughman said. They haven’t seen much progress for the server market, due to the lack of an ecosystem like the one ARM is building, he added.
Right now, there’s pressure from customers [for ARM-based systems], and OEMs such as HP are looking for dynamic improvements, he explained.
"With Boston, the ARM-based solution (1535 servers; 1.6 racks; 2 switches; its power consumption at 13kW) can offer 40 percent lower total cost of ownership, while it can be implemented in 61 percent less space, he claimed, compared to the X86-based solution (1997 servers; 4 racks; 44 switches;37kW)."
Effectively, the statement implies less space and less power consumption per server compared ARM to x86. I don't quite understand the difference of number of switches - 2 vs 44.
There is a movement of 64 bits ARM server. Whether it will take over x86 based server, only time can tell. Cloud based service providers may be able to shorten the time if the risk is properly handled.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.