Calxeda, Inktank Partner on ARM-Based Ceph Storage Systems

The announcement comes a week after three ODMs introduced storage and compute servers powered by Calxeda's ARM-based EnergyCore chips.

Calxeda, which makes server chips based on the ARM architecture, is continuing to expand the partners it's working with to get its offerings into the data center.

The company on June 11 announced a partnership with Inktank, the company that distributes the highly scalable, open-source Ceph distributed storage system. The two vendors are working to optimize Ceph for Calxeda's server architecture, part of Calxeda's efforts to focus on both servers and storage devices in the data center.

The announcement comes a week after Calxeda, at the Computex show in Taiwan, introduced three new original design manufacturer (ODM) partners, who were showing off Web and storage servers powered by the company's 32-bit EnergyCore systems-on-a-chip (SoCs). Calxeda officials said that getting Foxconn, Aaeon and Gigabyte into the fold validates what they're doing as they look to challenge Intel's dominance in the data center.

"These industry-leading companies see the growing opportunity for power-efficient ARM-based platforms, and are taking advantage of Calxeda's strategy of delivering both finished cards for building production-ready servers and enabling semi- and full custom designs to meet their customers' needs for low-power data centers," Karl Freund, vice president of marketing at Calxeda, wrote in a June 5 post on the ARM Servers Now blog site.

Applied Micro, Calxeda and Marvell Technologies are among the leading makers of ARM-based SoCs aimed at enterprises hardware. Much of the attention in the Intel-ARM competition has focused on the mobile device space, but another area of contention is low-power servers for Web hosting and cloud computing environments, where energy efficiency is key. ARM and its partners see an opportunity there for low-power chip designs.

Intel officials have pointed to advantages they have in this area, including familiar software tools and an x86-base Atom platform that already has one 64-bit chip on the market ("Centerton") and later this year will have a second, dubbed "Avoton," which will based on the new "Silvermont" microarchitecture. Systems with ARM's first 64-bit ARMv8 design aren't expected to ship until next year.

Advanced Micro Devices also is pushing its way into the microserver space, introducing its Opteron-X “Kyoto” chip in May. In addition, AMD next year will start making server chips based on the ARM architecture.

In an interview with eWEEK in April, Lakshmi Mandyam, director of ARM's Server and Ecosystems unit, noted that Applied Micro already has a 64-bit ARM chip that is sampling with Hewlett-Packard, and that there are a wide range of uses for 32-bit ARM-based SoCs in the data center. Mandyam also noted the increasing use of open-source technology in the data center as a plus for ARM.

“Open source is the great equalizer," she said at the time. "I don't think the gap [between ARM and Intel in server processor technology] is as much as you might think."

Calxeda officials said the evolving dynamics in the data center are rapidly changing what organizations are asking for, and that the partnership with Inktank illustrates that.

"There is a paradigm shift occurring in the storage industry: Explosive data growth is causing everyone to re-evaluate their existing solutions," Calxeda CEO Barry Evans said in a statement. "The 'old way' of doing things is just not viable; it is too costly to sustain at the rate and pace of growing business needs. Our low-power servers combined with the Ceph open-source storage system and Inktank’s expertise meet emerging business needs."

The partnership will combine Ceph's software-defined storage architecture with Inktank's expertise and Calxeda's low-power EnergyCore technology to create a storage system with the performance and scalability capabilities to handle such issues as cloud computing and big data, officials said. OEMs can now deliver next-generation storage offerings optimized for ARM-based servers.

At Computex, Aaeon showed off its Indus 1U (1.75-inch) cloud storage appliance, while Foxconn announced a dense 4U (7-inch) storage server. Gigabyte unveiled a 2U (3.5-inch) Web server that offers up to 48 nodes. All are powered by Calxeda's EnergyCore SoCs.

Calxeda in May announced that the Red Hat-sponsored Fedora Project is deploying a compute cluster made up of Calxeda-powered servers from Boston Ltd. In addition, HP will use Calxeda chips in some of its upcoming Project Moonshot microservers, a plan first broached in 2011. However, the first of the Moonshot systems are powered by Intel Atom chips.

HP isn't the only top-tier server maker with plans to use ARM-based chips in low-power servers. Dell also is working with Calxeda and Marvell in developing ARM-based microservers.