Earlier this month I was down in Texas visiting the Calxeda office where for the past four years they have been busy trying to revolutionize the server market through ultra-low power ARM-based servers. This morning one of their partners, Boston Limited, is formally launching their energy-efficient "Viridis" server built around Calxeda's EnergyCore ECX-1000 hardware. In this article are the first of some public Calxeda ARM benchmarks on Ubuntu Linux while more results will be out in the coming days.
While spending a few days in Austin at Calxeda's headquarters, I was able to carry out a number of benchmarks on the ECX-1000 server design that is being used by the Boston Viridis. Benchmarking was handled via the Phoronix Test Suite and now that Boston is launching their low-power ARM server, my collected results will begin to be uploaded to OpenBenchmarking.org. These Calxeda ARM benchmark results range from comparing the performance of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to Ubuntu 12.10, LLVM/Clang to GCC compilers on the ECX-1000 ARM hardware, performance-per-Watt comparisons, etc; it's the usual assortment of enthusiast-oriented benchmarks that are of interest to Linux hardware readers at Phoronix.
Each Calxeda EnergyCore ECX-1000 features a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 32-bit processor with 4MB of L2 cache, an on-chip fabric switch with 10Gb links, an on-chip management engine, 4GB of RAM, Serial ATA 2.0 support, and even PCI Express 2.0 support. The ECX-1000 hardware is much more beefy than what can be found in the low-cost development boards like the PandaBoard ES that doesn't even have a native SATA controller. The EnergyCore ECX-1000 is what Calxeda for months has been advertising as the "5-Watt Server" under load and while idling it draws only about a half-Watt of power.
The EnergyCore Fabric Switch offers five 10Gb external channels and three 10Gb internal channels, all of which can be dropped to 1Gb if desired for saving additional power. This fabric is said to be expandable up to 4096 nodes. The EnergyCore Management Engine meanwhile supports IPMI 2.0, runs off a separate embedded processor, and is able to provide real-time power optimizations via controlling twelve different power domains on each ECX-1000 card. The ARM Cortex-A9 processors are running at 1.1GHz on the ECX-1000, but more recently, they do have a 1.4GHz variant, which I was also able to benchmark this month at their office.
The Boston Viridis design is aimed to fit "3000 servers" into a single rack, which with the ECX-1000 cards means that's 12,000 ARM cores and 12 Terabytes of RAM. Their other marketing claims is that the design leads to dropping the direct power requirements by 90% and that nine miles of cabling and 125 Ethernet switches can be eliminated by Calxeda's hardware offering integrated networking and management.