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Chip startup seeks to lower electric bills in data centers

Dan Nystedt | Aug. 17, 2010
Smooth-Stone will compete against Intel in server chips

The software issue is the more serious of the two because many programs for servers are written to run on x86-based processors and would have to be rewritten for Arm's RISC-based (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) chips. It's not a major challenge, but it would add cost and time to the effort.

Arm cores are also still made for 32-bit computing only, not 64-bit computing, a direction the IT industry is moving more speedily toward.

Arm is working to improve chip performance due to the industry move to put its cores in servers, said Mike Inglis, general manager of Arm's processing division, during an interview in June.

But he also said the use of Arm processing cores in server-based chips is a concept being tested and could take a few years to play out. "I think the press has gotten too excited with the server discussion with Arm," he said.

Still, Marvell plans to launch its first server chips with Arm cores later this year, a company representative said. And it has put multiple Arm processing cores inside its server chips to better compete against those made by Intel, a strategy other companies could use.

Marvell will put out a quad-core chip based on Arm's Cortex-A9 processors to compete with Intel on speed.

"The server market, which is currently dominated by x86 processors, continues to be plagued by concerns of growing power consumption. Marvell, by exploiting ARM's low-power technology, hopes to make inroads into the server territory with its new offering that promises a fivefold reduction in power consumption and an on-par performance compared with an x86 processor," wrote Gartner analyst Ganesh Ramamoorthy, in a report.

Smooth-Stone and other companies looking to enter the fray could adopt a similar approach with multiple Arm cores.


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