Marvell Unveils 'Plug Computing' Platform

The tiny SheevaPlug computer provides always-on home network services, such as backup and file sharing, for a tenth of the power used by a regular desktop.

Antone Gonsalves

February 25, 2009

2 Min Read
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Marvell's SheevaPlug(click for larger image)

Marvell has introduced a development platform for a tiny computer about the size of a power adapter that would plug into a wall socket and provide always-on home network services, such as data backup and file sharing.

The idea behind SheevaPlug is to take services normally provided by a regular desktop and offload it to a miniature device that would use a tenth of the power. Marvell unveiled the concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

On Tuesday, Marvell launched its $99 SheevaPlug development platform for hardware vendors. It uses the company's Kirkwood processor, which is based on an embedded 1.2-GHz Sheeva CPU equipped with 512 MB of Flash memory and 512 MB of DRAM system memory. The design uses a gigabit Ethernet to connect to the home network and a USB 2.0 port for peripherals, such as direct attached storage. For application development, Marvell offers support for standard Linux 2.6 kernel distributions.

Simplicity is a key feature of the plug computer. "There is no doubt that home networks need to become more intelligent and easier to use by offering value-added services for the consumer," Simon Milner, VP and general manager of the consumer and communications business group at Marvell, said in a statement. “We have created an open computing platform for developers in a consumer and eco-friendly form factor."

Several companies have started to launch products based on Marvell's platform. They include Axentra, which is offering home server software for the SheevaPlug; Cloud Engines, which sells a device called Pogoplug that connects an external hard drive to the Internet so it can share and access files on a home network over the Web; CTERA Networks, which has built a data backup appliance; and Eyecon Technologies, which used the Marvell platform to build a media sharing device.

All design details and software needed to develop applications for the SheevaPlug platform are available through the Marvell Web site. The chipmaker also makes processors used in smartphones, such as the Asustek P565.

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