Our review of the Boston Viridis, one of the first Calxeda ECX-1000 based servers, was a pretty weird one. Instead of trying out different server workloads, we deliberately went for one of the few scenarios where the server might make sense: hosting light webservers. There were a few others like Content Delivery Network server or storage server, but those were about it. The quad ARM Cortex A9 inside the ECX-1000 was faster than the contemporary Atom SoCs, but missed the RAM capacity and raw performance of low power Xeons to be an alternative in most server workloads. The measured (!) 8 Watt per server node was however simply spectacular and the network fabric was one of the best in the industry. Calxeda was on the right track - they only needed more RAM and single thread performance in a server node. 

Calxeda has announced its second generation server SoC yesterday, the EnergyCore ECX-2000. Based upon the more powerful ARM Cortex A15, this new SoC should be able to deliver up to twice as much performance at 1.8 GHz than the ECX-1000 at 1.4 GHz and offer four times more RAM (16 GB per node). Although we will not believe the performance claims until we have tested them ourselves, it is not impossible to speculate. Anand compared the Google Nexus 10 with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0: the former has a Samsung Exynos 4 based upon a dual Cortex A15 at 1.7 GHz inside, the latter a very similar Samsung design, the 4212 based upong a dual Cortex A9 at 1.5 GHz. 

Benchmark A15 vs A9
Sun Spider 1.0 140%
Mozilla Kraken 176%
Octane v1 168%

It is impossible to estimate the performance of server SoCs by looking at browser benchmarks on tablet SoCs, but it gives us rough idea of how much extra crunching power the A15 delivers. At 7-zip.com we can compare an A15 at 1.7 GHz (Samsung Exynos 5250) with an A9 at 1.4 GHz (Samsung Exynos 4412):

Benchmark A9 A15 A15 vs A9
LZMA compression 1200 2270 189%
LZMA decompression 2400 3560 148%

As we posted before, the LZMA compression does have some similarities with typical server workloads. A Xeon "Sandy Bridge EP" 1.8 GHz scored 2793 with one thread, an EnergyCore ECX-1000 at 1.4 GHz scored 833 according to our own benchmarking. So we can estimate that a ECX-2000 would probably score around 1600, or similar to a modern Xeon at 1 GHz. Not earth shattering, but when you start looking at power consumption these numbers start to make sense.

Power

While the ECX-1000 needed 5 (1.1 GHz) to 6W (1.4 GHz per SoC), according to Calxeda the ECX-2000 needs about 7 to 10W (1.8 GHz). This equates to about 2.5 W per 1.8 GHz core. The best low power Xeon, the Xeon E3-1230L V3, has 4 cores (with HT) at 1.8 GHz with a TDP of 25W, or around 6W per physical core. Even though we do not know exactly what kind of server performance the ECX-2000 at 1.8 GHz will deliver, the limited data that we have makes it very likely that the ECX-2000 is going to be very interesting from a performance/watt point of view.

Of course, the real challenge will be the newly released Intel Atom C2000. Let us compare the new Calxeda SoCs with Intel's second generation of Server SoCs.

Intel Atom C2000 versus Calxeda ECX-2000
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  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    Everything that Linaro (dev organization) makes available on Xen, KVM, Linux Reply
  • Tanclearas - Wednesday, October 30, 2013 - link

    How is the ECX-2000 "limited to one" DIMM slot, but have a 128-bit memory controller? Reply
  • texadactyl - Saturday, November 2, 2013 - link

    The C2550 and C2750 can support up to 64MB RAM (not part of this article). The C2530 and C2730 (depicted in this article) are limited to 32MB RAM. Source: http://ark.intel.com/compare/77977,77982,77980,779... . Reply
  • TommyVolt - Thursday, December 19, 2013 - link

    Yes, the new 16 Gigabyte DDR3 DIMMs to upgrade to 64GB RAM with just 4 sockets are available from the company I'M Intelligent Memory, website: www.intelligentmemory.com
    These memory modules come as UDIMMs (240 Pin) or SO-DIMMs (204 Pin), with or without ECC. As they are made of just 16 pieces of 8 Gigabit DDR3 chips, the modules are dual-rank and still have total 16GByte. No special form factor, everything looks standard.
    Intel recently released a BIOS update for their C2000 Avoton series to support those Intelligent Memory modules with 16GB capacity..
    But the modules might also work in Calxeda and other platforms, because:
    When I look at the JEDEC DDR3 documentation, a 8 Gigabit DDR3 chip uses the same amount of address lines as a 4 Gigabit chip (A0 to A15). This means there is no hardware-modification required to run the modules. As a logical consequence, such 16GB modules should be working everywhere, in all types of CPUs, as long as the BIOS is programmed correctly to read the modules ID and set the values for the memory-initialization into the memory controller inside the SOC.
    Reply
  • brentpresley - Saturday, November 2, 2013 - link

    For those of us that actually run hosting companies and datacenters, these servers are actually worthless, for several reasons.

    1) x86 is still king in the hosting arena. Everything else, I would never risk Enterprise customers with SLAs of 99.999% uptime on.
    2) Underpowered. A nice Ivy Bridge system may pull more power, but it will handle proportionally more traffic.
    3) Licensing problems - most Enterprise grade Cloud OS's are licensed out by the Socket, not the core. Therefore your best bang for the buck is something like an Ivy Bridge E or high-end AMD Opteron. Everything else is just a waste of licensing $$$.

    Get me Haswell in an HP Moonshot form factor with mSATA SSDs, and then I might be interested. Until then, these are just toys.
    Reply

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