Facebook attracts server startups

Facebook attracts server startups

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

The two startups are the latest vendors leveraging the push for low power in big datacenters to disrupt Intel’s dominance in servers.

The two startups are the latest vendors leveraging the push for low power in big datacenters to disrupt Intel’s dominance in servers.

Servergy showed its 32-bit CT-1000 server using the eight-core Freescale P4080, and said it will roll a 64-bit system later this year using the Freescale P4240. Rex showed a prototype server using 32 ARM Cortex A9 cores embedded in Xilinx Zynq FPGAs working beside Adapteva Epiphany III chips as co-processors. It plans a 64-bit version using ARM Cortex A53 cores and Epiphany IV co-processors.

As many as a dozen companies are working on ARM server SoCs in hopes of gaining an edge over the Atom-based SoCs Intel is now shipping. Servergy and Rex both emerge from a sort of high tech left field with their options.

Servergy is "bucking the trend" toward ARM by choosing the 1.5 GHz Power-based communications SoC from Freescale, said Bill Mapp, founder and chief executive of the four-year-old startup. Even Freescale and other comms chip makers are increasingly migrating to ARM.

The Servergy CT-1000 aims to pack a lot of I/O in a small space. It supports two 10 Gbit and two Gbit Ethernet links and fits into a fourth of a 1U-sized rack consuming about 100 W under full load.

The system includes encryption, network offload, and pattern-matching accelerators as part of an overall system architecture implemented in FPGAs. It is protected by 15 issued patents and geared for a variety of embedded applications in addition to use as a big-data server.

"We’re an innovation lab, and our technology can be applied to all sorts of areas including storage going forward," said Mapp.

The company has taken on about $26 million in financing to date. Its 32-bit system faces an uphill fight given startup Calxeda pulled the plug on its 32-bit ARM server SoCs last year with several 64-bit chips expected to sample from multiple vendors in 2014.

Servergy’s CTS-1000 uses a 32-bit Power-based Freescale P4080 SoC.

For its part, Rex was founded in 2013 by MIT researchers Kurt Keville and Thomas Sohmers. The startup’s prototype packs 16 compute nodes, each with an Adapteva Epiphany III coprocessor and Zynq FPGA with two A9 cores as a host CPU. The 2U system consumes about 150 W max, and is geared as a software development platform.

Rex’s first product will be a 64-bit system using the Cortex A53. It will pack as many as 4,096 Epiphany co-processor cores, up from 256 cores in the development system.

Servergy and Rex aim to leverage existing specifications from Facebook’s Open Compute Project or help define new ones. "We’re thrilled to see companies like Rex Computing building on OCP’s designs to capitalize on new opportunities in high performance computing," Frank Frankovsky, chairman of the Open Compute Project and a datacenter executive at Facebook.  

— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times

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