Calxeda EnergyCore SoC

Boston has released its Viridis server which uses Calxeda's ARM System-on-Chips (SoCs). Each SoC consists of four ARM Cortex-A9 cores and up to 48 SoCs can be installed into a standard 2U enclosure. The SoCs come on what Boston calls POCket boards. There are four SoCs per board and each board also has four miniDIMM connectors and four SATA ports (one per SoC). The POCket board is a separate PCB which looks a lot like a PCIe card. Every board has a 10Gbps Ethernet link which is the interconnector between the main motherboard and POCket board.

Boston Viridis Specifications
SoC Calxeda EnergyCore (4x per POCket board, 48x per enclosure)
Architecture ARM Cortex-A9
Number of cores 4 per SoC (192 in total)
Frequency 1.1 - 1.4GHz
Memory 4GB per SoC (192GB in total)
Storage 4x SATA per SoC (192 in total)
Form Factor 2U

When using a regular 42U rack, Viridis can provide up to 1,008 SoCs with a total of 4,032 cores of processing power. Viridis is also extremely power efficient since each SoC has a TDP of only 5W (for example Intel's low-power Xeon E5 offerings have a TDP of 50W). Hence Viridis is the best suited for environments that have a highly parallel workload that can benefit from the high amount of cores and require extreme power efficiency. 

Using ARM architecture obviously limits software selection (e.g. Windows of any flavor is not supported). Boston is, however, stating that Ubuntu 11.10 is supported, along with popular software such as Perl, Python and MySQL. How well these applications are optimized for the architecture remains to be seen, but any significant ARM threat to the x86 server space is likely to benefit enterprise customers across the board. Competition in high margin businesses is never a bad thing.

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  • mevans336 - Monday, July 9, 2012 - link

    We would be interested in this if it scales and eventually offers support for JBoss and Nginx.

    I'd love to replace my Sandy Bridge Xeons with more cores at a 10:1 power ratio.
  • Soulkeeper - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    I'd love to see some benchmarks on a perf/watt or just plain performance comparison to other x86 alternatives.
    I wonder if the 10Gbps interconnect will limit it in any way
  • eanazag - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    10Gbps is about 1,250 MBps. You may get 80-90% utilization of the bandwidth at best. It would depend on what you're doing on the server.

    Truth is I would believe this to be a benefit for web hosting. I'm curious as to how much the power supply is rated for on the server; it'll indicate how much the max draw is.

    I don't think this has a chance to be anything more than a niche business model without Windows server support. Someone like Facebook or Google would have the intellectual support and workload to benefit from this.
  • Veerappan - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - link

    I'm thinking that web hosting companies could get some use out of this. Lots of low-power cores and support for the standard LAMP stack that a lot of them use. I'm assuming that power/performance scales nicely with the workload.

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