A crop of low-power server SoCs are on the way from both Intel and partners of ARM. Intel will get the first design win for one of the parts at Facebook, but it will be used in an embedded server.
Facebook is now testing Intel's Atom-based Avoton as a microserver acting as a serial-attached storage controller in its Open Vault, a tray of hard disk drives in a computer rack. "Essentially it turns a JBoD [just a bunch of disks] into a storage server," said Frank Frankovsky, head of hardware design and supply chain for Facebook.
Intel and Calxeda pitched competing chips for the roll in Facebook's data centers. Facebook picked the Intel chip "only because we need the 64-bit addressing," Frankovsky said. "But it by no means we are giving up on ARM-based SoCs" such as Calxeda, he added.
Facebook currently has samples of three ARM-based server SoCs in its labs, including chips from Calxeda and Marvell, Fankovsky said.
Meanwhile, Facebook is developing certification programs so the systems it designs as part of the Open Compute Foundation that Frankovsky chairs can be used by others. Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute has agreed to set up the first certification lab. Space could be ready in a few weeks, though test suites will take longer to complete.
Separately, Cannonical contributed a software tool that Facebook will release for an self-certification program. The foundation expects to hire a director of certification to run global program and is actively seeking candidates.