ARM Based Embedded Server – Marvell ARMADA XP

Marvell LogoA few years ago, nobody would have considered using an embedded system to run a server. But now, with the advance of technology, more and more servers are running embedded systems from the lower end such as home-based NAS (Network Access Storage) to higher-end for data-centers, cloud computing, web 2.0…

This is the higher-end that Marvell targets with its Quad Core ARM ARMADA XP MV78460 running at 1.6GHz with “16,600 DMIPS performance at less than 10 watts”. Please checkout Marvell ARMADA XP Product Brief for further details.

The main selling point of such solution is the power consumption compared to traditional Intel x86 based servers. According to Marvell, 50% of the cost of running a data-center is the electricity bill to run the server and especially to cool the room with air-conditioners.

So let’s do a little exercise. Let’s take the estimated power consumption of Google data-center in Oregon that is 103 MW in 2011, let’s assume Google can replace its existing x86 servers with ARM servers and save 75%* in electricity, so that this data-center would consume only 25.75 MW for 2011.  * I’m coming with 75% by estimating 90% power consumption saving per server and considering more ARM servers (less powerful) would be needed than x86 servers. Let me know if you think this number is completely off-base in the comments section.

Now let’s convert that into dollars. In Oregon, industrial customers pay 5.95 cents per Kw/h (as of July 2010).

So 103 MW (902 million KW/h) would be equivalent to 53,685,600 USD and 25.75 MW (225.57 million KW/h) to 13,421,415 USD. That would be a whooping 40 Million USD in electricity bill savings for just one data-center per year.

In the interview below, Marvell demonstrates the performance with 1,2 and 4 cores with a fractal benchmark, discusses about the advantage of such servers (low power consumption/cost), explains the target applications: data-center, cloud computing, web 2.0, video server (e.g. youtube/netflix), social apps server (e.g. facebook). He also explains that this type of solutions could not be used for database intensive application such as SAP, financial applications… Most of the work that remains to be done is finalizing the server software: Linux, Apache, PHP/MySQL, Java.. for this platform.

Marvell also have a development kit that can be used to develop your own software on Linux, VxWorks and BSD. This kit includes a development board (see Diagram below), the Linux drivers and BSP.

Armada XP Development Board Diagram
Armada XP Development Board Diagram

In order to access the SDK, you need to contact one of Marvell Sales office or register to their extranet.

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