Calxeda Gets $55 Million in Funding for ARM Server Chips

Calxeda, which has a partnership with HP, leverages ARM’s chip designs to create its low-power EnergyCore chips for micro servers.

Calxeda, among a number of vendors building server chips based on designs from ARM Holdings, is getting another cash infusion of $55 million, more than doubling the amount the 4-year-old company already has raised.

Calxeda will use the money to help accelerate the innovation of its technology, as well as drive adoption efforts and reportedly to hire more people, according to company executives. The money, announced Oct. 9, is coming from Austin Ventures and Vulcan Capital, as well as existing investors.

“This significant infusion of capital will accelerate the exciting trajectory we’ve been on for the past four years,” Calxeda co-founder and CEO Barry Evans said in a statement. “Businesses require a more efficient solution for the Web, cloud and big data. That is what Calxeda is now delivering, and this funding will enable us to go bigger and faster.”

Calxeda, founded in 2008, is one of several companies looking to leverage ARM’s low-power chip designs to create chips that can be used in the data center. Such organizations as large Web 2.0 companies—like Facebook, Google and Microsoft—and cloud service providers are building huge, dense data centers that process massive numbers of smaller workloads. These companies are not looking for traditional power-hungry, powerful servers chips from the likes of Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. Instead, they want chips and servers that can run these large numbers of workloads in a highly power-efficient manner.

ARM’s chip designs dominate the mobile device space—such as smartphones and tablets—where energy efficiency is key. Calxeda licenses the designs from ARM, then adds in its own innovations—such as its own fabric technology and management engine—to create its EnergyCore products. Calxeda is working with a number of server makers—most notably Hewlett-Packard—to create low-power servers, sometimes called micro servers.

HP, the world’s largest seller of x86 servers, is working with Calxeda to create such systems for its larger Project Moonshot, though company officials announced in June that the first Gemini systems coming out of the initiative will be based on Intel’s low-power Atom-based Centerton systems on a chip (SoCs). HP executives noted such features as 64-bit capabilities, error-correcting code (ECC) memory and wide software support in their decision to opt first for the Intel processors.

ARM is expecting to offer such features in its upcoming ARM v8 architecture, though systems powered by those chips aren’t expected to hit the market until later in 2013 or in early 2014.

Intel and AMD are both looking to make inroads into the mobile device chip market, now dominated by ARM-designed chips that are sold by such vendors as Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Nvidia. However, ARM also is looking to encroach on the PC and server spaces, where Intel and AMD both hold sway.

A number of chip partners also are eyeing the low-power server market, including Calxeda, Samsung, Nvidia and Marvell Technologies. Microservers are a fast-growing part of the server market, and HP officials expect that within two years, they will account for about 15 percent of server sales. HP is not the only top-tier server OEM developing ARM-based micro servers. Dell has been testing such systems for more than two years, and in May the company unveiled the first of its Copper servers, powered by Marvell’s Armada XP chips and aimed at hyperscale data center environments.

A smaller company, Boston Ltd., has begun developing and selling Calxeda-based servers via its Viridis Project. Boston officials have said that their servers can use as little as 5 watts of power.