When will servers powered by Calxeda’s ARM-based EnergyCore SoC finally start to appear in data center racks? Soon, according to Karl Freund, the vice president of marketing for the technology startup.
But you may not even realize it, and that suits the company just fine, at least in the near term.
In a few short years, Calxeda has undergone a name change, forged alliances with a big server maker — that would be HP — and got in the good graces of some prominent open source community projects on board, namely Apache (with some help from Dell) and OpenStack. In October, Calxeda scored a big funding win when it banked $55 million, bringing the total to $103 million.
Data Center at ARM’s Reach
Strictly speaking, HPC specialist Penguin Computing announced the general availability of its UDX1 server in October. Freund told me that come next year, it will be joined by a lot more hardware.
“The product is ready to go,” reported Freund earlier this month when I spoke with him. The company’s tech will start showing up at data centers in earnest by early 2013, he said, but it might be a while before you’re able to configure a Calxeda system from your favorite server vendor’s website.
Freund explained, “our go-to-market strategy has evolved somewhat.” In a bold move, Calxeda is now taking the reins, and will “no longer wait for OEMs to go to market,” he added.
While selling to OEMs is still very much part of the plan, in the meantime the company is inking deals with original design manufacturers (ODMs) and working on some interesting yet hush-hush data center-scale engagements. And in this era of Big Data and the management challenges it presents, some of the first opportunities for Calxeda’s low-power microserver technology are centered on the data-keeping side of the IT equation.
Calxeda Eyes Data Storage
“Several of those projects today are around storage,” admitted Freund. As to what those projects entail, think “cold” and “warm” storage.
For cold storage, “the classic example is the Facebook photo tier,” he said. Something like this requires systems that scale big, operate at low cost and can get the job done with acceptable latency. For warm storage, think CIFS and Gluster, he said. Calxeda’s high-bandwidth fabric and “wimpy cores” approach makes short, energy-efficient work out of storage server workloads that are more bandwidth intensive than compute intensive.
So in 2013, Calxeda plans to strike while the iron’s hot. “We’ve gone from state of hopeful listening — now that we have hardware in the field — to genuine interest,” said Freund. While the company expects to gain early traction in storage, other markets are signaling some interest in the company’s low-power tech.
HPC, Open Source and the Cloud
One market that’s been pretty receptive to Calxeda’s technology platform is the high performance computing (HPC) set. The company encountered an enthusiastic reception at last month’s SuperComputing ’12 conference and is now talking about doubling the size of its booth for next year.
Freund also said that its inroads with open source communities are starting to pay off. “The community already sort of equates Calxeda with ARM,” he informed. As for porting code, that’s the easy part, relatively speaking. Optimizing it for ARM is the focus of ongoing work.
Also in Calxeda’s sights is the cloud.
“We have people here dedicated to OpenStack,” the white-hot open source cloud platform, he added. “We use it extensively ourselves,” he informed. The company is also a supporter of TryStack, the free OpenStack developer “sandbox.”
Freund predicted that things will really start sizzling when Calxeda starts delivering 64-bit product down the line. (EnergyCore is currently a 32-bit technology.) Can the market — and the company’s investors – wait that long?
“I would remind people that it’s not a general purpose platform until the next few years,” said Freund. He added that both his company’s board and its investors back the company’s roadmap. “More importantly our customers are comfortable riding it out,” he added.
Check out GigaOM Pro’s analyst roundtable, Power matters: using ARM, Wednesday, December 19, at 10 a.m. PT. It’s free and you can watch from the comfort of your desk. Participants include Calxeda CEO Barry Evans, GigaOM Pro Analyst and GreenM3 Founder Dave Ohara and David Anderson, an Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Co-Author of “FAWN: Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes.”
Also, a big thanks to GigaOM’s Katie Chin @chinkatie