Calxeda Gets $20 Million in Funding for ARM-Based Server Chips

The money comes as Calxeda continues work with HP on developing low-power servers and demonstrates a system running on its ARM-based EnergyCore chips.

Calxeda, which earlier this month demonstrated a server powered by its energy-efficient ARM-based processors, has collected another $20 million from investors, bringing the total amount raised from investors to at least $44 million.

According to documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Calxeda received the $20 million from seven investors, and company officials expect to raise another $10 million.

Calxeda is becoming a leader among a growing number of chip makers who are hoping to push ARM Holdings€™ low-power chip designs into the server space. Executives with ARM and Calxeda, as well as other players, such as Marvell Technologies and Nvidia, see the low-power chips as ideal for energy-efficient servers aimed at such workloads as Web 2.0, high-performance computing (HPC) and cloud computing.

Such dense computing environments are looking for high-performing, highly energy-efficient systems to run massive numbers of small workloads. Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, whose x86-based processors dominate the server market, also are working to drive down the power consumption of their chips to handle the growing demands of such hyperscale environments. ARM and its manufacturing partners also see an opportunity there.

However, ARM executives have said that it probably won€™t be until 2014 that chips built on their designs will start making serious inroads into the server space. By then, processors based on ARM€™s Cortex-A15 designs will start hitting the market, and will offer features important to server makers, including greater virtualization support, more memory capacity and increased performance.

Intel executives have downplayed ARM€™s potential reach into the server space, arguing that such issues as software compatibility are crucial to server users. However, major OEMs are beginning to show interest in an alternative server architecture. Dell officials, aware of the demand from many business customers for more energy-efficient data center technologies, have said they have systems running on ARM chips in their labs. However, Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of Dell€™s Data Center Solutions, told eWEEK last year he questioned whether ARM and its partners had waited too long to make a move into the data center, giving Intel and AMD more time to produce more energy-efficient chips.

Hewlett-Packard last fall made a significant move in that direction. In November 2011, HP officials said they will use ARM-based chips from Calxeda that are part of a larger initiative called Project Moonshot, which is aimed at developing low-power servers to run in massive compute environments. HP will use Calxeda€™s EnergyCore system-on-a-chip (SoC) technology, which Calxeda officials said will result in servers that offer performance similar to current Intel and AMD processors, but use less power and space, and cost less.

Calxeda, at the Ubuntu Developer and Cloud Summit earlier this month, showed off a prototype server powered by its EnergyCore compute blades and running the Ubuntu 12.04 operating system, which company executives said represented a significant step forward. Karl Freund, Calxeda€™s vice president of marketing, said at the time of the show that similar demonstrations were on the way€”with end-user shipments starting this summer, and volume shipments from HP and other vendors coming in the fall.