Tactical Advice

Big Names in Tech Take a Look at HP’s Project Moonshot Servers

Highly modular and space-efficient Moonshot microservers are built with the cloud, Big Data, mobility and scalability in mind.
Big Names in Tech Take a Look at HP’s Project Moonshot Servers
Credit: HP

HP is getting a lot of attention from some big names for its Project Moonshot microservers, according to a ServerWatch report.

Moonshot, which HP markets as “the world’s first software defined web server,” is a low-power, space-efficient server architecture designed with modern IT in mind. It promises to be 89 percent more energy efficient, use 80 percent less space, cost 77 percent less and be 97 percent less complex than traditional servers.

HP CEO Meg Whitman says Moonshot has become especially popular among service providers. For instance, Apple intends to leverage Moonshot for iTunes, and China’s largest search engine, Baidu, has expressed keen interest in the microserver.

“We have a lot of interest from a lot of customers who are doing big scale-out computing," Whitman explained to CRN in a recent interview. "And just go right through the big service providers. When I say service providers I don't mean telcos. Facebook actually bought quite a bit of stuff from HP. Baidu, Tencent, Apple. That whole list of very big scale-out computing companies, are all very interested in this."

Other vendors already using Moonshot in their data centers include PayPal, Savvis, LeaseWeb and, of course, HP itself. Whitman, who laid out Moonshot’s green and cost-saving credentials during her keynote address at HP’s Nth Symposium late last month, told the audience that hp.com, which receives 3 million visitors per day, presently runs on a handful of Moonshot servers, and those servers only consume power equivalent to that needed to illuminate a dozen 60-watt light bulbs.

Introduced in November 2011, HP shipped the first Moonshot server this April. The ProLiant Moonshot Server is available today with Intel’s Atom S1260 Processor. HP says future editions of Moonshot will add support for ARM-based systems on a chip (SoC) from AMD, Calxeda, Texas Instruments and others.

In addition to being ultra low power, Moonshot is extremely space efficient and extensible. Every cartridge in Moonshot’s modular design is a stand-alone server. Its high-density chassis is capable of holding as many as 45 of these cartridges in a 4.3U rack space. A full rack, meanwhile, holds 450 of the Intel Atom S1200 Centerton SoC-based servers.

“We will build all kinds of different cartridges for all kinds of different applications,” said Dave Donatelli, executive VP and general manager of HP's enterprise-hardware business, during his keynote at the company’s Discover conference in June. HP intends to offer separate Moonshot cards for x86 and ARM processors as well as a card that supports both chip platforms, reports Datacenter Dynamics. There will be Moonshot cartridges for x86 and GPUs, TI chips and DSPs, while a 64-bit ARM cartridge is currently in the works.

“It's all about matching the server to your application to get you the best combination of power, performance and cost,” added Donatelli, in reference to Moonshot’s software-defined bona fides. “This was an innovation we've been working on for more than 10 years at HP Labs.”

Speaking with PCMag.com at the time of Moonshot’s launch, Moor Insights & Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead highlighted HP’s potentially market-disruptive rollout plans for Moonshot and the new server architecture’s built-in flexibility.

"You'll be able to use CPUs, APUs, GPUs, DSPs and FPGAs in servers you can just plug in, about half the size of a notebook like a MacBook Air, based on your chassis and what sorts of workloads you want to do,” he said. “Give HP a lot of credit bringing out this platform where you can use all these different kinds of chips for what you need to do."

In addition, HP intends to introduce new Moonshot processor cards at a much faster clip than server customers are used to. Moorhead noted how “most server launches happen on a 24-month cadence, but HP will bring out new [Moonshot] cards on a three- to six-month cycle, which I think is really a game-changer."

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About the Author

James Alan Miller

James is a veteran technology journalist with many years’ experience creating and developing magazine and online content. He is passionate about mobile tech, music and running — when the stars align.  Follow him on Google+ and Twitter:

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