Data Center Target of Calxeda ARM Chips
Low-power ARM chips could be coming to a data center near you, courtesy of a newly funded effort by chipmaker Calxeda. ARM chips are typically used in mobile devices and similar applications for which reduced power consumption is critical. But these chips also have potential uses in servers, where energy savings can be reflected in lower cost and greater convenience.
For the IT community, these juice-sipping chips could provide an alternative to the more demanding x86 chips used in most present-day servers. And the savings in energy usage can translate into greater flexibility for IT managers at midsize firms. On-premises data facilities could be easier to provide and support. Thus they may offer an alternative for midsize firms that are reluctant to leap into the cloud.
As Agam Shah reports at InfoWorld, chipmaker Calxeda has received $55 million in funding to develop servers running on low-power ARM processors. Dell and Hewlett-Packard have already built experimental servers using Calxeda's EnergyCore chip, which uses an ARM processor.
Calxeda chips are also used in a commercial server, Viridis, offered by Boston Ltd. The Viridis server has up to 48 Calxeda chips - a total of 192 ARM cores - in a 2U enclosure, along with integrated storage and networking. Each of the Calxeda chips uses as little as five watts of power.
The ARM chip, with its low power consumption, has mostly been seen in mobile devices, but interest in its server potential is growing. For the data center, power consumption is not only a direct cost in energy bills. High energy consumption also means greater cooling requirements, with all the resulting complications in facility design and operations.
An Alternative to the Cloud?
The ultimate impact of servers with reduced energy may be to simplify the installation and operation of on-premises data facilities. This in turn can offer IT departments at midsize firms a data storage alternative to the cloud.
No, this does not mean the end of cloud computing. At the most fundamental level, the cloud is about renting data storage capacity rather than buying it. And this makes a lot of sense for rapidly expanding firms or those with widely varying data demands.
But the cloud also has its complications. It means dealing with cloud vendors, and surrendering full control over data management. Many midsize firms may be hesitant to do so, especially due to concerns about security or regulatory compliance, which means that low-energy servers could offer an attractive option for on-premises data handling.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.