Smooth-Stone, the company building servers using chips used in today’s cell phones changed its name to Calxeda, hired some executives and made one of the first public statements about what it plans to deliver in terms of energy efficiency for the data center: a 10x improvement.
Let’s not go overboard on the prospects for ARM-based servers just yet. Yes, rumor has it that Facebook will be using them in its new data center, but that’s just a rumor (as far as I know). Furthermore, it seems inconceivable that Facebook would abandon x86 processors altogether, given that it has built a massive infrastructure atop them and tuned its software to suck every ounce of power and efficiency out of them. Certain tasks on ARM, sure. Entire operation on ARM, unlikely. If true, the news would perhaps signal a sea change, but one that will take long, long time to play out. I don’t think Intel is sweating just yet.
Smooth-Stone, an Austin, Texas, based company building servers using the chips found inside cell phones, has raised a $48 million initial round of funding from ARM, Advanced Technology Investment Company, Battery Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Texas Instruments.
If you have a smartphone, it’s a safe bet that there’s an ARM-based chip under the hood. Why not Intel? For the same reasons you wouldn’t stuff a V8 engine into a Smart Car; it’s overkill and it would deplete the gas tank in a hurry (or in the smartphone’s case, the batteries). So Intel should stick to PCs, servers and netbooks and ARM should continue designing low-power chips for smartphones and tablets, right? Wrong.
Microsoft may be testing servers that use cell-phone chips instead of Intel or AMD silicon in addition to solid-state storage drives for its online services division, which operates sites like Bing, most likely in an effort to drive down energy costs without sacrificing performance.
Intel, with its x86 architecture, has owned the corporate computing market for decades, but Barry Evans, CEO of Austin, Texas-based systems startup Smooth-Stone, thinks it’s time for a change. Evans is betting on ARM-based processors to “completely remove power as an issue in the data center.”
Wikia is quitting Dell servers thanks to both a functional and philosophical disagreement stemming from Dell’s demands that all hard drives in its newest PowerEdge servers are certified by Dell, highlighting the disconnect between web-scale companies and equipment providers still designing boxes for enterprise data centers.
Austin is still betting on hardware statups even as venture firms stop funding them. In a video interview with Bart Bohn, a director at the Austin Technology Incubator, we talk about where hardware startups can find funding, and which ones to watch in Austin.
When the Department of Energy announced that it was awarding 14 data center efficiency projects $47 million this morning, one name piqued my interest: SeaMicro. The stealthy server maker has remained under the radar despite raising at least $10 million from backers like Khosla Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Crosslink Capital and developing what could be a game-changing technology to address power consumption in data centers.
For the details on how the technology works, I turned to broadband infrastructure guru Stacey Higginbotham, GigaOM Senior Writer, to give us an explanation. Stacey says SeaMicro has built a box that contains 512 Atom CPUs, a petabyte of storage, and costs less than $100,000. The company hopes to use that box to sell into a market which chip-makers have largely ignored: There’s a huge range between low-power mobile chips and incredibly speedy high-performance chips, but most chip makers are neglecting opportunities in the middle range.
Read More about SeaMicro: A Server Maker That Could Change the Game of Computing Power
Blade server and containerized data center startup Verari Systems is shutting down today, according to reports. This has me wondering what the fates have in store for other specialty hardware players such as BLADE Networks or Liquid Computing.