Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Movidis, a five-year-old company that previously specialized in video-on-demand servers, is eschewing popular x86 server processors in favor of a multicore, MIPS-based CPU previously used primarily for network appliances. The 16-core, 64-bit processor is low-power and has an integrated Gigabit Ethernet controller and encryption, said Movidis CEO Ken Goldsholl.
Movidis showed off the server, dubbed Revolution, this week at LinuxWorld in San Francisco.
With the integrated capabilities, Revolution can move data in and out of the network quickly, as well as speed through encryption and decryption tasks, according to Goldsholl. "We needed to use a different processor -- one that is fast, with integrated silicon for accelerating the common compute-intensive functions in most server applications," he said.
The on-die networking also means that the PCI-X slots can be used exclusively by storage, Goldsholl said. The system can support up to four drives in a 1U format and eight drives -- or a maximum of 6 Tbytes -- in a 2U format. "We will have a version that supports 12 drives in a 2U server by next year," Goldsholl said.
Revolution is aimed at companies needing Web servers, particularly secure Web servers because of the chip's encryption capabilities, as well as database servers, storage servers and video-on-demand servers, Goldsholl said. It's not recommended for applications that require high-floating-point or number-crunching capabilities.
Goldsholl said Revolution is certified for use with Debian Linux 2.6, a Linux distribution for MIPS processors. The server ships with the Debian operating system, the Apache open-source Web server, and the MySQL and PostgreSQL databases preinstalled.
Though Movidis has not yet developed a formal channel program, Goldsholl said the company, which currently has about 10 employees, aims to recruit solution providers to sell the server. It's available as a branded option, a network appliance version that can be OEMed and a barebones option.
Debian is installed in flash on the system to make it easier for solution providers to build a system. "Even if there are no drives in the system, it is easy to install drives because the system will boot off flash," Goldsholl said.
Movidis is using the Octeon processor from MIPS chipmaker Cavium Networks. Its 16 cores run at 500 MHz to 600 MHz, keeping power down to 50 Watts, and it include 1 Mbyte of L2 cache.
Revolution can be configured with up to eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and up to 8 Gbytes of memory in four DIMM slots. Prices will start at $2,995 when the product begins shipping in about three weeks, Goldsholl said.
Movidis came up with the idea for the server when it was looking to improve performance on its video-on-demand offering. Goldsholl said Movidis was using a PowerPC processor designed for network processing in a 3U blade format. After developing Revolution, the company realized the product would be useful for other applications, he said, adding that Revolution provides twice the performance in a 1U format.
Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said there is precedent for using a multicore, specific-function processor for some server applications. Sun Microsystems earlier this year released an eight-core, low-power T1 processor aimed at high-transaction applications, and IBM, Sony and Toshiba also are working on the multicore Cell processor for specialized applications.
"The way has been paved for them to talk about this stuff," King said.
But King noted that it can be difficult for a company with no big-name brands to break into a market dominated by corporate users. Indeed, many system builders have relied on the "Intel Inside" branding to reassure customers that their white-box systems are backed by a big name.
Still, Goldsholl thinks Movidis gives solution providers something they won't find in the crowded x86 market. "We give resellers a way to differentiate themselves," he said.