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Green chip start-up gets $48 million in funding

Silicon start-up Smooth-Stone seeks to use the power thriftiness of ARM processors to reduce the energy consumption at large data centers.

Silicon start-up Smooth-Stone has received $48 million from a syndicate of investors including ARM, Texas Instruments, and Highland Capital Ventures.

Smooth-Stone's goal is to bring the virtues of low-power cell phone technology to servers and, as a result, bring down the staggering power consumption at large data centers. Mega data centers can house tens of thousands of servers and the largest can use between 5 and 20 megawatts of power. One megawatt, equal to 1 million watts, can power about 1,000 homes.

Smooth-Stone joins other start-ups such as U.S. Department of Energy-backed SeaMicro, which is using Intel's power-sipping Atom chips to achieve the same end.

And the fact that ARM is a major investor sets the stage for competition with Intel. Those two companies are also increasingly going up against each other in the ultra-mobile space, where power frugality is a paramount concern. Intel Atom chips power most of the world's Netbooks, while ARM chips power popular devices such as Apple's iPad.

"Smooth-Stone's approach of bringing low power technology into the server domain made them a perfect fit for our investment model," said Bruce Beckloff, vice president of corporate business development at ARM, in a statement Monday. "Our goal is to completely remove power consumption as an issue for the data center," said Smooth-Stone CEO Barry Evans in a statement. "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."

Other investors include Advanced Technology Investment Co. (ATIC)--which has a controlling interest in Globalfoundries, the chipmaking arm of Advanced Micro Devices--Battery Ventures, and Flybridge Capital Partners.

Smooth-Stone was founded in January 2008.