Smooth-Stone Gets $48M for Low-Power Servers

You can’t use a bunch of cell phones to power a data center. But startup Smooth-Stone hopes to do the next-best thing: use chips optimized for cell phones to make low-power servers that can slash the energy costs for data center operators.

Smooth-Stone announced today that it has raised $48 million from a syndicate of leading venture capital firms and semiconductor markers. The investors in the round include ARM, Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), Battery Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Texas Instruments Inc.

Smooth-Stone is the latest in a group of startups focusing on low-power servers to address the appetite for improved energy efficiency in next-generation data centers. The company hasn’t outlined the details of its product offering yet, beyond the use of ARM chips.

Smooth-Stone is led by CEO Barry Evans, who worked at Intel for many years. 

“Our goal is to completely remove power consumption as an issue for the data center,” said Evans. “Imagine that change for companies with a large presence on the Internet. They all deal with the reality that as the mass of information grows daily, so does their power consumption. Every day these companies are thinking about managing their data center sprawl. We want to make sure that space and power are not constraining their potential.

“This kind of investment, the amount, and the strength of this syndicate is a strong endorsement for the innovation we are bringing to market,” Evans added. “We look forward to taking advantage of the insights and know-how of these industry-leading investors.”

Those investors appear confident that Smooth-Stone’s technology can have an impact.  

“The necessity of finding more energy efficient server solutions for data centers has created an enormous and truly revolutionary opportunity for the industry,” said Ken Lawler, Battery Ventures General Partner. “As a firm, we recognized from the beginning that Smooth-Stone had the innovative technology, the customer value proposition and the engineering and management capability to disrupt the web server landscape. Smooth-Stone has a very bright future and we’re thrilled to be part of this investment.”

The syndicate backing Smooth-Stone includes investors with previous experience with semiconductor and server makers, including Advanced Analogic, Cimaron, Ikanos, MaxLinear, PA Semi, Sigmatel and SiTera.

“There is a strong market need for a new class of data center platforms that offer a significant improvement in performance from both the energy and density perspectives, and ARM is excited to support Smooth-stone’s efforts to develop innovative chip solutions for this new class of platforms,” said Bruce Beckloff, vice president of corporate business development, ARM.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. This type of development has and will continue, even at large firms like Intel and AMD. They’ve been looking at bringing down the power of servers for quite a while. The potential issue comes down to whether or not the low powered servers have enough processing capacity to run applications that are becoming ever more complex. These processors may be great at low power, commodity transactions, but they will never run the multi-thread database queries that some applications require.

  2. Rocky

    Lowering CPU power consumption is good. But to make a big difference in data center power consumption, every point of power consumption and design needs to be re-examined. As long as the industry keeps pushing pizza box server designs with generic over-speced motherboards, multiple power conversions, cheap power supplies, tiny fans, leaky server cabinets, raised floor air distribution, double-conversion UPSes with huge battery banks, giant CRACs and chillers, and sealed-up bunkers for buildings, we won't see dramatic power consumption changes by replacing 150 watt multi-core CPUs with a bunch of 1 watt CPUs.