Ready for ARM-based server chips? Smooth-Stone hopes so

Smooth-Stone has raised $48 million in an effort to bring ARM server chips to data centers. Can the company eliminate energy worries in the data center?

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Smooth-Stone, an Austin, Tex.-based startup, has raised $48 million in an effort to bring ARM server chips to data centers. The concept is novel; Group low-power chips together to run data centers and eliminate energy worries.

The company's backers-ARM, Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), which invested in AMD and Globalfoundries, Battery Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Texas Instruments-indicate there's a little mojo here.

According to a statement, Smooth-Stone will take its initial capital and direct it to the "final development and market delivery of high performance, low power chips that will change the server market and the makeup of data centers."

Naturally, Smooth-Stone, founded in January 2008, is raising a good bit of buzz. Smooth-Stone is being touted as an Intel killer, an atom bomb aimed at the chip giant or a David looking to slay the semiconductor industry's Goliath. Be wary of that talk. I still remember a Red Herring cover touting that Transmeta would change everything. Remember Transmeta? Thought so. The lesson: There have been a lot of so-called Intel killers and none of them were all that successful.

Of course, that fact doesn't mean Smooth-Stone isn't on to an interesting idea. Smooth-Stone is arguing that you can take the low power of mobile phones and apply them to data centers. In a nutshell, Smooth-Stone is talking about stringing together a bunch of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips-or TI processors-from your cell phone and powering a server.

Smooth-Stone CEO Barry Evans said:

"Our goal is to completely remove power consumption as an issue for the data center. 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."

It's a heady goal and we'll be very interested to hear about the case studies. For now, Smooth-Stone is busy hiring people with its capital infusion.