Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

Summary: Smooth-Stonehas raised $48 million in an effort to bring ARM server chips to data centers. Can the company eliminate energy worries in the data center?

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Smooth-Stone, an Austin, Tex.-based startup, has raised $48 million in an effort to bring ARM server chips to data centers. The concept is novel; Group low-power chips together to run data centers and eliminate energy worries.

The company's backers---ARM, Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), which invested in AMD and Globalfoundries, Battery Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Texas Instruments---indicate there's a little mojo here.

According to a statement, Smooth-Stone will take its initial capital and direct it to the "final development and market delivery of high performance, low power chips that will change the server market and the makeup of data centers."

Naturally, Smooth-Stone, founded in January 2008, is raising a good bit of buzz. Smooth-Stone is being touted as an Intel killer, an atom bomb aimed at the chip giant or a David looking to slay the semiconductor industry's Goliath. Be wary of that talk. I still remember a Red Herring cover touting that Transmeta would change everything. Remember Transmeta? Thought so. The lesson: There have been a lot of so-called Intel killers and none of them were all that successful.

Of course, that fact doesn't mean Smooth-Stone isn't on to an interesting idea. Smooth-Stone is arguing that you can take the low power of mobile phones and apply them to data centers. In a nutshell, Smooth-Stone is talking about stringing together a bunch of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips---or TI processors---from your cell phone and powering a server.

Smooth-Stone CEO Barry Evans said:

“Our goal is to completely remove power consumption as an issue for the data center. Imagine that change for companies with a large presence on the Internet. They all deal with the reality that as the mass of information grows daily, so does their power consumption. Every day these companies are thinking about managing their data center sprawl. We want to make sure that space and power are not constraining their potential.”

It's a heady goal and we'll be very interested to hear about the case studies. For now, Smooth-Stone is busy hiring people with its capital infusion.

Topics: Storage, Data Centers, Hardware, Networking, Processors, Servers

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15 comments
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  • WinTel is over

    Sorry Intel.
    Sorry Microsoft.
    BrentRBrian
    • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

      @BrentRBrian Well unfortunately most data centers run a mixture of servers, most are windows based and since Windows does not run on ARM, so what will be this OS they run ???<br>I like Linux and it does run on ARM, but even that will take some porting effort for the Servers. <br><br>Intel could catch up and pass ARM in the power saving arena before the ARM Server project completes.
      mrlinux
      • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

        @mrlinux

        Well, according to Steve Ballmer (MS CEO) the majority of servers run Linux. And you know IBM will be in on this eventually. And what do they support? Linux. So be more hopeful than that.
        hito_kiri
  • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

    From the looks of a couple of the job descriptions, I think they're going to be hosting Linux distributions on these systems they're designing.
    dvanderwerken
  • Niche at best

    Interesting idea - they have come and gone over the years. I expect this will end similar to the way others have - a highly specialized niche capability but not a mass market revolution.
    jeff@...
  • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

    Will it run Microsoft Windows Server 2008? No? See ya!
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

      @Loverock Davidson : so now I know you're product manager for the Windows Server division.

      Maybe you and your team forgot that Windows NT was born on non Intel hardware (remember Alpha, PReP and Itanium). For quite a while, you were hard pressed to find NT 4.0 running on anything but high end boxes with few 486 on the mix. Well, until the pentium.

      So don't count out a system that's energy efficient and could at first be used to run low cost LAMP stacks. Yep those same stacks that Microsoft's pushing with their Microsoft Web Platform Installer.
      cosuna
      • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

        @cosuna
        If the server can't run the OS that is running the data center then it will be a short lived server. Can it run Microsoft Windows? If it can't then it doesn't have much future.
        Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

      @Loverock Davidson <br><br>Hmmm you must not know much about what is used server wise. Like I said above, Steve Ballmer (your hero I presume?) has stated before that Linux powers the majority of servers. Servers are not MS's playground. I am sure that Windows powers all the big company servers like Amazon, NASA, Ebay, the NYSE, most of the top ten web hosting companies, etc... Oh wait that's Linux. There are plenty of big companies that sell Linux server hardware and software (IBM and Oracle maybe?) and that is not going to change any time soon.
      hito_kiri
  • The Wave of the Future

    Given global climate change, the likelihood of a carbon tax in the near future, and rising energy costs, ARM-based servers may some day become the routine.
    trentreviso
    • The wave of the future? Not likely...

      <i>Given global climate change, the likelihood of a carbon tax in the near future, and rising energy costs, ARM-based servers may some day become the routine. </i><br><br><br><br>If "efficient energy control" becomes the wave of the future, then the government people will figure out a way to extract more money from those that are running those "energy efficient systems". Call it an "efficient energy tax". <br><br>Look, carbon taxes is not about stopping or reducing global warming or reducing the use of fossil fuels or reducing our dependence on foreign suppliers for our energy. It's about the government gaining more control over the economy and over our personal lives. It's about managing our every day lives with more government programs. <br><br>If big government proponents cannot gain that control with carbon taxes or with other big government programs/spending/takeovers, then they'll figure out some new scheme. With every new government regulation or new government program or new tax, we lose a bit more of control over our lives. <br><br>Just examine every issue with a fine tooth comb and you'll begin to realize the trend that our lives have taken in the last 100 years or so.
      adornoe
  • Hardware costs

    are usually insignificant. Exp. a nice $10k x86_64 server running $50k Websphere and $100k Oracle.
    Roger Ramjet
  • Don't think the folks at Amazon aren't considering doing this?

    Think again.
    Huge cost incentives to run ARM mainframes.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
  • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

    What % of server total system environment power is processor? Even a zero watt processor saves nothing in power consumed by power supply inefficiency, memory, chipset, Disk drives, LAN adaptes, LAN switch, cooling, and maybe RAID Adapter, SAN HBA, SAN Switch, & External storage subsystem?

    David Kra
    dakra137
  • RE: Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

    BTW. Just as Transmeta was thought to be an Intel killer, so was Netscape a Microsoft killer. Both never happened.

    But today we have Google... will ARM be the dynamic duo. [Will AndyArm or GoARM be the next WinTel]
    cosuna