On Her Majesty's Servers: UK's Coronavirus Future Fund sinks 'seven-figure sum' into Arm data-centre kit

Brit firm Bamboo scores cash that can convert to equity. Yup, the government could become a server vendor!

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The UK's Coronavirus Future Fund has made a biggish bet on Arm server vendor Bamboo.

Bamboo started life with the name Kaleao, though let the branding consultants give it a makeover. The biz emerged in June 2020 with its new name and a PANDA – the Parallel Arm Node Designed Architecture – making it a bit of an exhibition in the zoo that is the data-centre server market.

PANDA drives Bamboo's stripped-back Arm servers, which the company insists you house in its special chassis. The architecture also includes this week's new toy – a co-processor to handle I/O and therefore leave CPUs to run applications.

Bamboo reckons buyers will appreciate its approach of emphasising cores-per-kilowatt-hour rather than raw CPU power. Which isn't a million miles from the approach that Arm itself has taken with its new Zeus architecture.

The Coronavirus Future Fund offers convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to "innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak". To score any cash from the fund, businesses need to be UK-incorporated, employ mostly UK residents or win most revenue from the UK, and to have raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last five years.

Bamboo knocked the last one out of the park on Wednesday when it announced a $7m funding round led by current investors Seraphim Capital and Opea Holding.

The Future Fund also weighed in. Bamboo would not say how much the UK scheme contributed, but did say it is a "seven-figure sum".

As the fund's contributions are loans with a three-year maturation period, the investment in Bamboo could therefore lead to the UK owning part of an entity that sells computers packing Arm chips designed in Blighty. And seeing as Arm is a descendant of British company Acorn, which developed another government-sponsored computer – the BBC Micro – history may be about to repeat itself in an odd way. ®

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