SAN JOSE, Calif. — Calxeda, a maker of ARM-based server SoCs, said it will close its doors. The startup was one of the first of as many as a dozen companies gearing up low-power, integrated processors using the ARM core.
Calxeda could not hold on until the emerging market becomes large enough to sustain it. But the loss does not impact the overall trend toward low-power servers, mainly driven by large datacenter operators such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
"The concept of a fabric of ARM-based servers challenging the industry giants was not on anyone's radar screen when we started this journey," the company said in a press release. "Carrying the load of industry pioneer has exceeded our ability to continue to operate as we had envisioned." The company will continue to support customers of its 32-bit ECX-2000 while it goes through a "restructuring process."
Part of the company's problem was the market for 32-bit ARM server SoCs did not pan out as it had hoped. "Calxeda had the right idea, but they started too soon," said Linley Gwennap, principal of the market watcher Linley Group, told us. "Once ARM announced a 64-bit architecture but didn't have a 64-bit core ready, it cut the knees out from Calxeda. Demand for 32-bit server chips, which was modest to start with, dried up, but Calxeda couldn't deliver a 64-bit processor until late 2014 -- as a startup, the funding simply wasn't going to last that long."
Calxeda first publicly talked about its 32-bit product in early 2011. Later that year, Hewlett-Packard said it was testing a prototype system using the product in its labs.
In late 2012, the startup, like many others, said it would deliver a 64-bit SoC in late 2014. As recently as October, HP was showing ARM-based server cards from Applied Micro, Calxeda, and Texas Instruments that it said it would ship in 2014. To date, HP has used Intel Atom-based chips only in its Moonshot low-power servers.
Calxeda sold some SoCs to a few relatively small computer makers that shipped systems, including Boston Computers and Penguin Computing. Marvell got one of the first major design wins for a 32-bit ARM SoC used as a storage controller at the Chinese web giant Baidu. Facebook said in August that it plans to use an Intel Atom SoC as a storage controller.
A server manager at Dell said in October that he did not see a large market for such controllers, and that the market for 64-bit ARM servers might not start in earnest until late 2014 or early 2015. That market is now well served by established companies that have announced product plans, including AMD, Applied Micro, Cavium, Marvell, Nvidia, and Samsung.
In January, Qualcomm advertised for engineers with ARM and server expertise. But this fall, a Qualcomm executive said it is monitoring the space but has no active plans for products.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times