Nov 14 2013

HP Sets Sights on Moonshot Server Launch Next Year

Computing pioneer is currently testing 64-bit and 32-bit ARM-based versions of the low-power and highly scalable microserver platform in its Discovery Lab.

Computer giant HP intends to extend its leg up on the microserver market next year by releasing 64-bit and 32-bit ARM-based versions of its energy-efficient and hyper-scalable Moonshot servers, according to a recent eWeek report.

Chief Technology Officer and Director of HP Labs Martin Fink let the cat out of the bag during his keynote at the ARM TechCon 2013 show in Santa Clara, Calif., late last month. Traditionally, systems on chips (SoCs) based on ARM designs — licensed to the likes of Nvidia, Samsung, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and Apple — are found in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, which benefit greatly from ARM’s low-power requirements and efficiency.

HP’s objective with Moonshot is to extend these and other benefits of the ARM architecture to the data center.

During his presentation, Fink displayed a slide detailing three ARM-based Moonshot systems currently up and running in HP’s labs. Commenting on the slide, labeled “New HP Moonshot servers based on ARM available in Discovery Labs now,” Fink said, “we have our 32-bit Calxeda cartridge, our Texas Instruments and DSP [digital signal processor]-based cartridge and now our first 64-bit ARM cartridge” all pictured in the deck.

In the labs, HP is testing the 64-bit ARM-based Moonshot microserver running on AppliedMicro's X-Gene SoC. The slide indicated that the 32-bit ARM Calxeda server is targeted at cloud apps while the 32-bit TI server is for communications applications such as video and VoIP, thanks to the inclusion of the DSP on its Moonshot cartridge.

Introduced in November 2011, Moonshot first became available earlier this year in configurations based on Intel’s Atom S1200 processors. Earlier this fall, HP upgraded to the servers to the Atom Avoton line. So far, Moonshot has been particularly popular among large service providers, who are drawn to the platform’s scalability and space savings.

According to HP, Moonshot takes up 80 percent less space than a traditional server. For example, a 4.3U rack can hold 45 Intel Avoton 8-core processor cartridges for a total of 360 cores, while a A10U rack holds 3,600 CPU cores in a full rack. Need more processing power? Simply drop another Moonshot cartridge into the rack.

The Moonshot platform also is said to be 89 percent more energy-efficient, 97 percent less complex and 77 percent less expensive to maintain than traditional servers.

In developing Moonshot, Fink said in his keynote, HP asked itself, “How do we leverage the ARM ecosystem and the low-power ecosystem” in order to create a radically different compute capability, adding that “the interesting thing with Moonshot is it really is a bold, completely new and different kind of infrastructure that doesn’t compromise server power.” Because, as Fink explained, with Moonshot “we have a complete set of fabrics. We have a networking fabric, storage fabrics, management fabrics” that allow businesses to combine and define compute capacity on the fly and on demand.