Are ARM Servers the disruptive change coming to Green the Data Center? Smooth-Stone is trying

GigaOm has a post on ARM taking on Intel in the Data Centers.

ARM Ready To Take On Intel in Servers

By Stacey Higginbotham Apr. 28, 2010, 3:15pm PDT 2 Comments

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ARM plc has confirmed that within the next 12 months its architecture, which is currently used primarily in cell phones and consumer electronics, will also be used in servers — pitting it against the lifeblood of Intel’s chip business. Speaking with EETimes, Warren East, the CEO of ARM, said servers using ARM-based chips should appear within the year.

The news shouldn’t come as a surprise to our readers, since I profiled Smooth-Stone, one company trying to build low-power servers earlier this month, and in that same post pointed to ARM’s server ambitions. And it’s not just startups that are interested in using the low-power ARM architecture inside data centers, either. Google recently acquired a secretive startup called Agnilux that was rumored to be making a server with the ARM architecture. We also reported on a Microsoft job listing that sought a software development engineer with experience running ARM in the data center for the company’s eXtreme Computing group.

I blogged about this idea in May 19, 2009.

Energy efficiency is a new focus for many, and much to the  frustration of Intel, AMD, and Server OEMs, not everyone wants a multi-core high cost chip.

So, what’s next?

ARM based servers that can be even higher performance per watt.

Don’t know who has done this, but given the hardware ecosystem, there are people who have experimented with this and Linux OSs.  The popularity of ARM chips in mobile devices is where the knowledge exists for low power solutions.

Why not take a mobile device, an iPhone and turn it into a server.

GigaOm has a specific post about Smooth-Stone.

Smooth-Stone Bets ARM Will Invade the Data Center

By Stacey Higginbotham Apr. 9, 2010, 10:00am PDT 2 Comments

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Smooth-Stone CEO Barry Evans

Intel, with its x86 architecture, has owned the corporate computing market for decades, but Barry Evans, CEO of Austin, Texas-based systems startup Smooth-Stone, thinks it’s time for a change. Smooth-Stone, which Evans co-founded in 2008, is using ARM-based processors to create a box for the data center. Its goal isn’t a slight reduction in power efficiency, he said, but to “completely remove power as an issue in the data center.”

However, the specifics of Evans’ stealthy company are overshadowed by one key question: Is ARM ready to invade the data center? Evans thinks yes, and I think the IP licensing company behind the architecture does too, because it appears to be cooking up something that involves using its architecture inside servers. Ian Ferguson, director of enterprise and embedded solutions at ARM Plc, declined to talk to me for this story, saying the timing was not yet right to talk about the company and servers “for a few reasons that I can’t discuss.”

What is hilarious is while I was reading the GigaOm post about ARM taking on Intel, I am sitting in the car as a passenger next to Barry Evans sharing a ride from the airport, and had met three other Smooth-Stone executives that morning for breakfast thanks to a well connected data center insider.

What is Smooth-stone?

Founded in January 2008, Smooth‐Stone brings ultra‐low power mobile phone technology to the datacenter. Smooth-Stone has brought together leading engineers with experience in volume and blade server platforms, mainframes, server CPUs, networking processors, telecom infrastructure, and high performance cellular application processors and cell phone system-on-chips.  With depth in both hardware and software design and development the Smooth-Stone team is uniquely positioned to deliver a complete low power solution.

Smooth-Stone technology, combined with the industry-standard ARM architecture and tools, enables truly green datacenters.

Note the last sentence "enables truly green datacenters."

I did write a brief post about Smooth Stone in Oct 2009, but it was hard to find any other information.

Here is information in local papers. Austin Business Journal.

Smooth-Stone Inc., which is a member of the Austin Technology Incubator and develops low power server technology, will receive an initial $250,000 pre-seed investment from the state with potential for $1 million in total investment for the commercialization of its technology.

“Smooth-Stone’s innovative architecture has the potential to change the server market and keep Texas on the cutting edge of technology,” said Jack McDonald, chairman and CEO of Perficient Inc. and chairman of the Central Texas Regional Center of Innovation and Commercialization.

Now that I know 4 executives from the Smooth Stone team and they know what I do besides write a blog you can expect I'll have more to say in the future about Smooth-stone as they are talking to the right companies and people who have a passion for greening the data center with a change in server hardware.

I had a great time talking to the executives at Smooth-Stone about ARM chip, data center industry, IT issues, energy efficiency, and our backgrounds.  I've been talking to some folks at ARM and other big data center users about the same ideas and our paths were crossing.  There is a perfect storm coming to data centers with a good chance ARM chips will be the power efficiency behind the change.  The environment and customers are going to be happy with the change, the current data center ecosystem will have to adapt fast once the change happens as it is not hard to crank out lots of ARM servers given ARM is the most popular processor now thanks to the mobile industry.