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Calxeda demonstrated a live cluster running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS on actual Calxeda EnergyCore hardware at the Ubuntu Developer Summit this week. The company managed to run existing Linux web applications on the system. This was the first public demonstration of an ARM-based server hardware working in clusters, a significant milestone for Calxeda and the industry.

The cluster running on stage was a Calxeda EnergyCard prototype in a 2U chassis that supports up to 48 quad-core nodes at under 300W, with up to 24 Serial ATA hard disk drives.   A complete build of the Ubuntu 12.04 kernel took less than an hour to compile on a single node, 1/4 the time of current ARM build platforms, according to Calxeda. With a larger Calxeda cluster, a full build of the entire distro will take hours, instead of weeks.

"Running Ubuntu 12.04, we are demonstrating a standard LAMP stack (running Calxeda’s web-site) along with other popular web frameworks such as node.js and Ruby on Rails, provisioning of OpenStack Nova compute instances, and even Canonical’s Metal-as-a-Service bare-metal provisioning. [...] This demo really shows just how easy it is to move modern software over to Calxeda and Ubuntu.  Literally, it all just worked. The code came up without any modifications. Just load and go," explained Karl Freund, vice president of marketing at Calxeda.

Calxeda EnergyCore system-on-chip incorporates four ARM Cortex-A9 cores as well as  a supercomputing-class 80Gb/s fabric switch and an integrated management engine with power optimization software, all on a single piece of silicon. The EnergyCore SoC also includes a full complement of server I/O features and a large 4MB ECC L2 cache, enabling system vendors, Calxeda’s customers, to offer a complete server node that consumes only 5W, including 4GB of ECC memory and a large capacity SSD.

With the first live demo of an ARM-based cluster, we can now expect credible performance numbers of ARM servers to emerge shortly.

"Most importantly, we can get on with the important work of characterizing real benchmarks on real systems with real OS support. HP’s Discovery [Calxeda-powered] centers will certainly play a part in this process as well, and I am willing to bet that by the end of the summer we will have some compelling data on whether the ARM server will deliver on its performance and energy efficiency promises. It’s not a slam dunk guaranteed win – Intel has been steadily ratcheting up its energy efficiency, and the latest generation of x86 server from HP, IBM, Dell, and others show promise of much better throughput per watt than their predecessors. Add to that the demonstration of a Xeon-based system by Sea Micro (ironically now owned by AMD) that delivered Xeon CPUs at a 10W per CPU power overhead, an unheard of efficiency," said Richard Fichera, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Tags: ARM, Calxeda, Cortex, HP

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