Calxeda's ARM-Based Server Chips Re-emerge With New Company

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-12-20 Print this article Print
Silver Lining server

The scale-out data center space is becoming the key driver behind server sales worldwide. Big-name companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft run huge data centers that house massive numbers of small, dense servers and value power efficiency and cost as high as performance when looking for systems. It's an area officials with ARM and its partners are targeting, as are other vendors. Intel, which holds more than 95 percent of the server chip market, is rapidly building out its portfolio of cloud- and workload-optimized chips through its Atom and Xeon platforms, and is growing its custom chip business.

At the same time, IBM's OpenPower Foundation, an open-source project launched last year to extend the reach of the Power architecture, also is putting the bulk of its efforts toward the scale-out compute space.

Silver Lining is partnering with Foxconn's Cloud Enterprise Solution Business Group to build the systems, and the company will continue investing in the Calxeda technology. Foxconn is moving into the server manufacturing business; HP officials in May announced it was partnering with Foxconn to build low-power servers for cloud environments.

There are few details about the systems themselves. On the Website, the company highlights the work Calxeda engineers did not only in developing the chips themselves, but also the Layer 2 switching fabric, adaptive interconnect designs and management capabilities. In systems with high core counts, a fabric that enables them to communicate is crucial.

The systems include the Silver Lining Architecture Management (SLAM), out-of-band remote software for cluster management. The SLAM provides an overlay that enables system management commands for the ARM CPU and SoC Management Controller (SMC), which monitors the CPUs and the 10 Gigabit fabric for each node, according to the company.

"There are (48) Nodes per SLS and therefore (48) slices of SLS fabric each controlled by its respective SMC," the company said on its site. "SLAM will allow for easy and efficient utilization of all 48 nodes in the chassis, thereby efficiently managing Network CPUs and 10Gb Node Fabrics."

Evans said he likes the direction SLS is heading with the technology, particularly as it looks to create Calxeda-based products that are optimized for particular workloads. Demand from businesses is moving away from general-purpose systems and toward data center appliances that are designed for particular workloads. Silver Lining is aiming to address that demand, he said.

More information on how Silver Lining will develop the technology apparently will come next year. It's unclear whether it will be a company only selling systems based on the Calxeda technology or will also sell Calxeda-based SoCs to other system makers. Evans would only say that SLS is taking an appliance approach now, with the goal of "learning from this one and taking [the technology] forward."



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