A tiny Austin, Texas, startup is about to get some backup from Hewlett Packard in its David-and-Goliath fight against Intel.
According to Bloomberg, HP is set to start shipping servers with low-power processors built by the 14-month-old startup, Calxeda.
Calxeda (pronounced Cal-zay-dah) has cooked up a brand new server chip design by building its own variation of the low-power ARM microprocessor. ARM chips are already very popular in consumer devices, powering things like phones, modems, and DVD-players. But until now, they haven’t had the horsepower to cut it in the data center.
Calxeda believes that’s all about to change. It has developed a way to cram 120 of its chips into a single 3.5 inch high server case. Karl Freund, Calxeda’s vice president of marketing, has no comment on the HP report — much like HP itself and ARM — but he says Calxeda has a half-dozen computer-makers in “various stages of designs and discussion.”
“We think our servers could use 1/10th the energy and 1/12th the space,” he says. “In total cost it’s about half of what people are spending today.”
Those kind of numbers are sure to get the attention of anyone who operates a data center — from Facebook and Google to financial companies to scientists. Energy costs are the number once concern at most data centers these days.
But big data centers are mostly using Intel-based systems now, and getting them to switch will not be easy. Calxeda clearly understands this. The company originally called itself Smooth-Stone, a reference to the biblical David-and-Goliath story.
While David took out Goliath with a single, heavenly guided shot, knocking Intel out of the $48 billion server market is a much more complicated proposition. Calexa needs to line up server makers like HP, but it also needs software companies to help out. And it needs to fine-tune a version of the Linux operating system that is specially built for server chips running on its ARM architecture. Right now, Linux on ARM is more of a phone-and-appliance kind of proposition, so getting it to run perfectly in a data center will take some tweaking.
When will all that happen? Perhaps we’ll know more next week. Calexa will host a product news event on Nov. 1 in Palo Alto, California. In atendence will be partners, software vendors and even computer-makers, the company says. Who knows, maybe one of them will be HP?
Image courtesy Flickr/Domenico Salvagnin