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Calxeda, a startup that aims to develop ARM architecture-based microprocessors for servers, disclosed on Friday its first plans. The first solution by the company will be quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 system-on-chip (SoC) aimed at servers. Eventually the company aims to design SoCs that will provide up to 20 times performance per watt per dollar advantage over x86 offerings.

The first Calxeda reference design for OEM partners and select end-user and developer customers, will be based on an ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core SoC. The system-on-chip will enable users to design servers as dense as 120 ARM quad-core nodes (480 cores) in a 2U enclosure, with an average consumption of about 5W per node (1.25W per core) “including DRAM”, according to the company.

Ultimately, Calxeda (which was formerly known as Smooth-Stone) plans to provide users ARM architecture-based chips as well as products with the Calxeda microprocessors that will offer 5 – 10 times performance/watt advantage and 15 – 20 times advantage when price is factored in.

“Calxeda fully expects other players like Intel (with Atom) and AMD to make strides [into the low-power servers] too, so there will be performance comparisons all over the map. Only real application testing will prove Calxeda’s performance, and Calxeda will be open for proof of concept proposals this Fall,” said Laura Beck, a spokeswoman for Calxeda, said.

While 1.25W per core power consumption seems to be impressive (by contrast, the lowest-power AMD Opteron consumes 5.83W per core), it remains to be seen whether performance provided by such core will be competitive and how low power will be chipsets, hard drives, network cards and other equipment so that ARM-based servers could truly provide competitive performance-per-watt-per-dollar ratio.

What is also somewhat disappointing is that Calxeda decided to use Cortex-A9 core and not the more advanced Cortex-A15, which is specifically designed for servers.

Tags: Calxeda, Cortex, Opteron

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