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Austin's Calxeda dives head-first into low-power pool

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Four years ago, Calxeda Inc. was a tiny startup at the Austin Innovation Incubator, and nobody except the nerdiest information innovation experts was talking about the advantages of low-power servers that could be deployed in enormous numbers.

Calxeda has more than 60 employees now, and it expects to top 100 by the end of the year. It as well has an alliance with computer kingpin Hewlett-Packard Co. and a working relationship with Dell Inc., which continues to explore low-power technology during it figures out when the time is right to make a real product offering.

The reasons are simple

The reasons are simple: The task of serving information to increasing numbers of smartphones and other mobile devices seems to call for something other than the big, power-hungry and expensive mainstream servers of the past.

Meanwhile, computer buyers are asking tougher questions about how much they want to spend on the hundreds of thousands of new servers and the electrical power they will use to run the revamped Internet.

And more experts are concluding that new kinds of cheap, small and very low-power servers could be so then-suited for a significant fraction of the work that Internet data centers do.

Study this year

In a study this year, Oppenheimer & Co. estimated that low-power servers could expand to 21 percent of the traditional PC-server market by 2016 and take in $4.5 billion in revenue.

The reason, the company said, is that the rise of cloud computing and mobile computing has expanded the potential work for low-power servers, which it estimates will have a "total cost of ownership" savings of 60 percent or more over the lifetime of the equipment.

Other challengers include Applied Micro Circuits, Marvell Research, Nvidia Corp., Qualcomm and Samsung, the memory chip giant, which has been expanding its engineering design center in Austin, where it is believed to be working on low-power server chips derived from basic designs by ARM Holdings Ltd.

Karl Freund, marketing vice president of Calxeda, said the company expects to see lots of competitors in its space. That just means it will have keep innovating fast. Part of the company's advantage, Freund said, is its communications "fabric" that ties at the same time and helps manage hundreds of small servers packed tightly into a relatively small box that fits into a data center equipment rack. The pending arrival of Intel and others in the market, Freund said, for the moment proves that the low-power server market is real.

More information: Statesman