The waiting is over; the first ARM-based processor designed explicitly for dense datacenter solutions was announced today. Calxeda's EnergyCore ARM SOC (Server on a chip) permits a server solution that consumes only 5 watts (1.5 watts for the CPU). By building dense solutions using the EnergyCore SOC, Calxeda claims that they will utilize 1/10th of the power, 1/10th the space, and have only half the cost and eqiuivalent performance when compared to Intel-based servers in the same performace range.
The SOC is abased around a 4 core ARM CPU that can run at speeds up to 1.4 GHz. It has a 4 MB shared L2 cache and an integrated memory controller in the processor complex. The SOC includes three other components, as well; the switch fabric that allows up to 4096 SOC's to be interconnected, an I/O controller for SATA, PCIe, Ethernet, and SD/eMMC , and, what may be the most interesting component, an on-board memory management engine.
While the on-board management engine has the advantage of providing an open interface to management tools so it can be accessed via IPMI and DCMI, which means that it will be possible to manage these dense systems without the need to a per SOC investment in a third-party management agent it is this management hardware that enables the dense configurations. The engine is responsible for autonomic fabric routing, which means that once the switch fabric is configured for the device its configuration is maintained automatically, as well as power optimization and power management, which is needed to minimize the power utilization.
The fabric on the SOC performs as a distributed Layer-2 switch and enables not just fault tolerance, but also optimizations for power, security, and performance across the switched nodes. With a node-to-node latency of less than 200 nanoseconds the fabric performance is a major part of what makes it possible for the application layer to treat a very dense multiprocessor EnergyCore server as if it was any traditional SMP server.
The first implementation of the EnergyCore SOC from Calxeda will be a four node reference design called the EnergyCard; it combines SOCs with four 4 GB mini-DIMMs (a new memory specification) and for SATA connections per node. The card plugs into a system board with a passive fabric and eight 10 Gb links and is designed to fit in the height of a 1U server.
Samples of the SOC will be available shortly with quantity production expected by mid-2012