Are you seeing any significant market for 32-bit ARM server SoCs?
Where would such a market be? The nature of what servers do will place a premium on address space. The vastly greater address space possible in 64 bit architectures will make them preferable for most server tasks I can imagine,
I'd call Calxeda's 32 bit offerings proof-of-concept, demonstrating performance in a ballpark with comparable X86 chips but greater power efficiency. It would all have been well had ARM had 64 bit CPUs available in a shorter time frame.
They didn't, and it killed Calxeda. Investors were unwilling to provide further capital to keep Calxeda going. It would lengthen the payback period and increase their risk. Calxeda would need to establish a clear leadership in the 64 bit ARM server market, grow rapidly, and ship a lot of silicon, and do so in the face of competition from bigger, better heeled vendors looking to play in the same space. The folks providing the funding would see a better bet in cutting their losses on Calxeda, and investing in someone else when ARM actually had 64 bit designs ready to turn into chips.
I might use a 32 bit ARM chip as something like a peripheral controller in a server, but I wouldn't use if for a CPU, and CPUs are the point of this exercise.
>> Calxeda, a maker of ARM-based server SoCs, said it will close its doors.
This company might have sold its business or got acquired than just closing doors. I felt they had some really great business model out there. It is always hard to disrupt hardware business as you need to have a lot of funds to do that.
@Goafrit. Indeed my "close the doors" language could be misleading.
The comnpoany just said "restructuring" which implies there could be a sale of its assets or some other outcome TBD.
An asset sale is one possibility. An acquisition is another. There's enough interest in 64 bit ARM servers that I can see another vendor buying Calxeda. If I'm a player in the server space, and I want to offer 64 bit ARM based solutions, what do I do? Do I build the capability from scratch, or do I look at acquiring someone who has already done it?
While Calxeda's existing products are 32 bit, you can assume a fair amount of engineering on the HW and SW sides that went into them will be applicable to 64 bit products as well, I can see an outside interest in both Calxeda's IP, and its staff.
Rick, you wrote:
Calxeda could not hold on until the emerging market becomes large enough to sustain it.
It's true. And I imagine that "emerging market" also includes geographically emerging market such as China. I remember earlier this year, I bumped into a group of Calxeda's senior executives including its CEO, in a hotel in Beijing. It was clear that the startup had high hopes for a growing number of Internet-based service companies in China to embrace Calxeda's solution based on ARM 32-bit cores.
But again, that market probably didn't grow fast enough for the startup to hang its hat on.
I imagine that "emerging market" also includes geographically emerging market such as China.
You may assume that "emerging market" is "anywhere in the world where servers will be deployed in quantity."
China is a huge market, period, so it makes perfect sense that Calxeda execs should pay a visit to Beijing. It would be a place to meet possible customers that might buy their solutions, and more important, to build essential relationships with the Chinese government to insure they were allowed to sell their products in China.
DMcCunney: good analysis! I am of the opinion that the hype wagon went way before the horse in case of low power servers replacing Intel-based ones in the compute nodes. I remember seeing a demo of a 1RU server with 32 of the ARM processors last year where I challenged them to run Linpack BLAS C-version and compare with Intel-bases servers using Green500 power / watt (PPW) metric. Unfortunately I could not convince them to show the comparison! For sure, HPC benchmarks will show that even though ARM is much better at the overall PPW metric, when it comes to solving large problems / large data operations, Intel still beats ARM-based processors in PPW metric.
For sure, HPC benchmarks will show that even though ARM is much better at the overall PPW metric, when it comes to solving large problems / large data operations, Intel still beats ARM-based processors in PPW metric.
I think you're correct, and the server market won't be monolithic. Whether Intel architecture or ARM architecture will get the nod will depends upon the expected role of the server. If what I want is a compute server, doing serious number crunching where I need results sooner rather than later, Intel may get the nod. Likewise, if I'm doing something like hosting a large Oracle database where I have a terabyte of tables in RAM and I want the fastest possible performance on queries and updates, Intel may get the nod.
If I'm someone like Google or Facebook, building out data centers with thousands of servers where the key is distributed processing, no one server will carry a really heavy load, and time to complete any particular function is less critical, I may opt for power savings over raw performance. As my load grows, I just add more servers, but more servers require more power, with increased costs for the power to run the servers, and the power run the cooling systems to keep the servers within an acceptable temperature range.
It will ultimately come down to money, and which approach offers the most bang for the buck, but what bang is will vary by customer and use case.
I expect a lot of amusement when 64 bit ARM CPUs start becoming available in quantity, with all manner of benchmarks purporting to show the superiority of one architecture over another. The key questions will be "What do the benchmarks measure?" and "How relevant are particular numbers to the intended application?"
For sure, HPC benchmarks will show that even though ARM is much better at the overall PPW metric, when it comes to solving large problems / large data operations, Intel still beats ARM-based processors in PPW metric
PPW is not the be-all and end-all. What matter is lowest power at good performance. Calxeda was able to demonstrate PPW benefit for static web-tier work-loads but what they probably found was that it was not a large enough market to justify a business case around.
But that is not to say that custom ARM 64b cores from AppliedMicro, Broadcom etc will come out with significantly better performing cores.
You are challenging a perceived assertion with an assertion :) logic tells us that for LAMP servers, at least, custom SoC solutions based on ARM processors should perform better than Intel's on PPW. But even if we do not accept that, what about Performance Per Dollar? For the good of the end customer we need multiple providers. Intel's profit margins in the server market are ungodly and only competition can address that.
There is definitely a market for non-Intel servers, as customers have long tired of the Intel monopoly. AMD's x86 has fallen far behind, remarkably leaving ARM's licensees as the most viable contenders. But, there is no need for a 32-bit server in China or anywhere else. It was the only ARM ISA available when Calxeda got started, but it could never live as a product, so was at best a proof-of-concept, stepping stone to 64-bit. We will start to see ARM 64-bit servers emerge slowly in 2014, but too slowly for a company like Calxeda, that has to survive solely on that ramp. The needs of the server market are changing too, where Intel's historical strength of single thread performance is not a must-have for many of the new web server workloads. So, I see ARM eventually making a strong business in severs, but, yes, it is all about software, and that will take time.
@KB3001: Indeed Intel's multi hundred dollar Xeon processors may someday be a thing of the past (at least in volume servers) with the advent of multiple players selling integrated chips for the low tens of dollars
It's funny, with 320bit core architectures attracting less-than-stellar demand, the pressure on all those 64-bit ARM-based SOCs scheduled to ship next year and beyond mounts. Calxeda had a lot of ambition in this market and I for one am surprised to hear of this announcement. Nonetheless, the staikes remain high in this new segment--there could be a lot to gain but its a matter of biding one's time properly which Calxeda was not able to do.
Probably the most intriguing thing about Calxeda shutting down is what happened to the Fabric. To elaborate, Calxeda had two things that were innovative - one was the use of existing power efficient 32b cores from the mobile space and applying them to server workloads, but the second was the ability to connect a large set of such processors using their "scale-out" fabric interconnect. I always thought that was the more important part of their story and the distinguishing feature.
I can only speculate here:
- Maybe the big OEMs did not adopt Calxeda's fabric pretty much negating their advantage. I am not sure if the moon-shot from HP used their fabric. I suspect it did not.
- Did their fabric not provide the scalability or performance needed for large clusters
- Maybe proprietary fabrics are not welcome in the data-center and existing solutions are sufficient ( I dont see how though)
Sorry to see them go and they were definitely ahead of their time with some innovative ideas. Well fought Calxeda! Well fought!