The case for ARM processors in the data centre just got a little more difficult to push with the news that industry pioneer Calxeda has all-but folded amid cashflow troubles.
Calxeda's server-centric ARM SoCs might be clever, but a delay in the production of 64-bit versions could prove fatal for the company.
For the past few years, numerous industry giants have been investigating using low-power system-on-chip (SoC) chips based around the ARM architecture in servers - particularly for supercomputing and cloud computing roles, where raw compute performance from the CPU is less important than the ability to run as many threads as possible in as small a power envelope as can be achieved. Companies like Facebook and Amazon have been trialling the technology themselves, while recent rumours suggest that Google is going a step further and looking to design and build its own custom processors
for its server farms using ARM's latest architecture.
The path to putting ARM in the data centre hasn't been smooth, however. Initially, concerns were raised regarding the architecture's 32-bit exclusivity - especially for cloud computing, where massive quantities of RAM is a common sight. ARM addressed this with the launch of a 64-bit architecture variant, but for some it appears to have come too late.
Calxeda, a start-up formerly known as Smooth-Stone and which looked to dominate the many-core microserver market with its ARM-based products, is one of those companies. 'Carrying the load of industry pioneer has exceeded our ability to continue to operate as we had envisioned,
' claimed chief executive Barry Evans - a former employee of both Intel and ARM licensee Marvell - in a statement to the WSJ
which confirmed a rumoured 'restructure' that will see the vast majority of its 130 staff laid off at Christmas. 'We just literally ran out of cash.
The news comes as things looked to be on the up for Calxeda: its designs were chosen by Hewlett Packard for its Project Moonshot servers, but a last-minute shift in the company's plans saw Calxeda's ARM designs replaced with Intel Atom chips. A delay in the production of 64-bit processors, too, is believed to have hurt Calxeda badly.
In a statement to press, the company has promised that this is not the end: 'Calxeda has begun a restructuring process,
' it claimed of the move to lay off the overwhelming majority of its staff at Christmas. 'During this process, we remain committed to our customers' success with ECX-2000 projects that are now underway.