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Taiwanese Firm Buys Defunct Calxeda’s ARM Server IP
The HP Redstone server — the Moonshot initiative’s first ARM server prototype — featuring Calxeda SoCs on display at GigaOm Structure in 2012 (Photo: Colleen Miller)

Taiwanese Firm Buys Defunct Calxeda’s ARM Server IP

Silver Lining has partnerships with Foxconn, ARM

A Taiwanese gaming company has bought intellectual property of Calxeda, the Austin-based ARM server startup that went out of business late last year, to get into the server business.

Silver Lining Systems, which bought the Calxeda IP, is a new brand of Taipei-based AtGames Digital Media. AtGames’ other two brands are Zooti, which sells Android tablets and tablet games, and a PC game reseller called D2D.

Silver Lining has a partnership with the enterprise solutions division of Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant, and with ARM. Both Foxconn and ARM actively participated in the process of Silver Lining's purchase of Calxeda’s IP from a bank but did not participate in the actual transaction, Barry Evans, the defunct Austin company’s founder and former CEO, said.

“Takes a village to fire up a semiconductor product line,” Evans said. He is involved with Silver Lining as an advisor.

Calxeda shut its doors in December 2013, its execs saying they were unable to raise enough money to keep going.

The company had developed several 32 bit ARM Server-on-Chip parts for different data center applications, including servers and storage systems. It was also well on its way to bring a 64 bit ARM SoC for servers to market.

U.K.’s ARM Holdings licenses its chip architecture to semiconductor makers. The architecture is used in most of the world’s smartphones.

Because they have relatively low power needs, ARM chips became an attractive alternative to the x86 processor architecture that dominates the server market. Other companies in the ARM server market include AMD, Applied Micro, Texas Instruments, and Cavium.

When HP first announced its Moonshot microserver line in 2011, it said it would use Calxeda’s SoCs. But when the IT giant actually started shipping ARM-powered Moonshot servers earlier this year, the systems used the 64 bit X-Gene ARM SoC by Sunnyvale, California-based Applied Micro.

Because he is only an advisor to Silver Lining, Evans didn’t have detailed insight into Silver Lining’s product plans, but said they included bringing Calxeda’s existing products back. He said the company was not going to take the general-purpose approach to ARM SoCs, working instead on products optimized for specific workloads.

“A bunch of companies that were testing the system before are picking up and testing it again now,” Evans said.

He said the number of players that have entered the ARM server market was striking, and that the high level of competition would drive a lot of innovation in the space. “When was the last time the PC industry had that many competitors?” he asked.

“All these players have a lot more latitude in what to build and so you’re seeing some dramatically different implementations of a total System-on-Chip solution,” Evans said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article did not make it clear that Foxconn and ARM did not actually participate in the transaction of Silver Lining's purchase of Calxeda's intellectual property. The article has been corrected to clarify that.

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