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Boston Ltd. Unveils Latest ARM-Based Microserver

The Viridis 2.0 includes Calxeda's ARM-based EnergyCore ECX-2000 SoCs and offers improvements in performance and memory over the current system.

Tech vendor Boston Ltd. is rolling out a new ARM-based low-power server, the latest addition to its lineup of Viridis microservers.

The new system, the Boston Viridis 2.0, is based on six of the company's ECX-2000 cards, with each card holding two quad-core systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) from ARM chip-manufacturing partner Calxeda. The chip maker's EnergyCore ECX-2000 processors are based on ARM's 32-bit Cortex-A15 architecture, which runs at 1.8GHz and consumes as little as 6 watts of power.

The Viridis 2.0 runs the Ubuntu 13.10 Linux operating system, enabling it to support the latest OpenStack "Havana" cloud computing platform, according to Boston officials.

The microserver was announced Nov. 19 at the SC '13 supercomputing show in Denver, which runs through Nov. 22. The system brings significant improvements over previous ARM-based systems the company has introduced, according to Manoj Nayee, managing director at Boston. Those enhancements include twice the performance, three times the memory bandwidth and four times the memory capacity of the company's ECX-1000 microserver.

"With improved performance and triple the memory bandwidth, Boston is excited to build on the game-changing launch of its ARM-server range last year," Nayee said in a statement.

The system also includes an integrated 80GB Fleet Fabric switch, and the embedded Fleet Engine offers out-of-ban control and the capability for autonomic operation and power optimization.

In May, Boston and Calxeda announced that a compute cluster based on Boston's servers and Calxeda's EnergyCore SoCs was being run as part of the Fedora Project, run each year by Red Hat and the Linux Community. Officials with both Boston and Calxeda said the cluster deployment was another proof-point for ARM-based servers.

ARM-based microservers are getting more attention from both tech vendors and end users as organizations look for systems that can help them process and analyze the massive amounts of data being generated while keeping power and cooling costs low. The trend is opening up another area of competition between Intel and ARM, which already are beginning to clash in the mobile device space. While ARM is dominant in that market—where the bulk of smartphones and tablets run on chips based on its designs—it is the upstart in a data center server market where Intel is king.

While there are servers running on ARM's current 32-bit SoC designs, the real competition is expected to start later next year and into 2015, after systems powered by ARM's upcoming 64-bit ARMv8 architecture begin appearing on the market.

Intel is leveraging its low-power Atom platform for SoCs aimed at microservers. The company in September launched its second-generation 22-nanometer Atom C2000 "Avoton" chips. OEMs like Dell and Hewlett-Packard are aiming to roll out ARM-based microservers, though the first systems from HP's Project Moonshot are being powered by Intel's Atom chips.