Marvell Semiconductor has announced a new hardware/software development kit that uses Linux and puts the complete Linux-powered computer into a wall outlet hanging receptacle no larger than the power supply you see on many consumer electronics devices. The device is called the SheevaPlug and draws only 5 watts of power.
Marvell says that the SheevaPlug draws about as much power as a night light during use and still packs a 1.2GHz Sheeva ARM compatible processing core, 512MB of RAM and 512MB of flash storage. People can buy the devices in single unit quantities for $100, but Marvell says that when bought in bulk, the SheevaPlug can go for as low as about $50 per unit.
The completely open software design makes the system appropriate for use in always-on home automation devices. Marvell says that there are several ARM compatible ports of Linux distributions that are included and already running on the SheevaPlug. Marvell also says that it is committed to providing everything that the community needs to provide the best Linux support.
Marvell's Raja Mukhopadhyay said, "Whatever the community needs to facilitate development, we will provide the critical resources needed to facilitate that."
The SheevaPlug is built around the Marvell 88F6000 Kirkwood SoC that was launched last year, which combines elements of the early Feroceon and XScale architectures. Both of those architectures use implementations of ARMs ARMv5 architecture.
Other features of the small computer include gigabit Ethernet and USB ports. Several retail products are going to be available that use the SheevaPlug design and while Marvell didn’t specify dimensions for the device, the retail products give an idea of exactly how small the SheevaPlug is.
The Cloud Engines Pogoplug is one of the products and it measures 4-inches x 2.5-inches x 2.0-inches and allows users to remotely upload multimedia from devices like the iPhone. Other SheevaPlug-based products include the Ctera Networks CloudPlug, the Axentra HipServ, and the Eyecon Technologies Eyecon.
Marvell chose the highest performance 88F6000 SoC that it offers, though detuned it a bit for the SheevaPlug. The 88F6000 is available in 88F6190 running at 600MHz, 88F6180 running at 800MHz, 88F6192 running at 800MHz, and the 88F6281 used in the new device that normally runs at 1.5GHz and is downclocked to 1.2GHz in this application. Marvell says that the 88F6000 Sheeva core can be clocked as high as 2GHz.
The 88F6000 series targets devices like IP home gateways, set-top boxes, home routers, and media servers. Most of the retail products that use the SheevaPlug design appear to be built for media serving.
Whether or not higher performance version of the SheevaPlug will be offered is unknown. The SheevaPlug doesn't take advantage of all the IO connectivity the 88F6000 SoCs offer, which includes dual SATA ports, and PCI Express and SDIO options.