HP Hopes ‘Moonshot’ Servers Will Kick Off Big Shift

Hewlett-Packard has announced its first “Project Moonshot” servers, which company executives described as “software-defined servers” that could be used with a variety of microprocessor architectures and workloads. The first Moonshot servers will ship to the United States and Canada beginning April 8, with worldwide shipments beginning next month.

Meg Whitman, HP’s chief executive, described Moonshot as part of a “big shift” that happens every 15 years or so—and a necessary one as more traditional computing services move to the cloud. Other executives suggested that so-called “hyperscale” models of computing, including Moonshot, are needed as the industry undergoes the shift to managing thousands upon thousands of servers at a time.

The idea behind Moonshot is that, by using a processor cartridge to abstract some of the complexity behind the hardware design, HP can develop cheaper servers that use less power and deploy them faster than traditional designs. They will consume 89 percent less energy, cost 77 percent less, and reduce complexity by 97 percent (whatever that means). HP also did not explicitly name any servers to which it’s actually comparing Moonshot.

The 4.3U Moonshot rack (known as the Moonshot 1500 chassis) contains 45 hot-pluggable servers and 8 GB of memory plus management, networking, storage, power cords, cooling components, direct attached disk drives, and two network switches. (Moonshot’s data sheet is here (PDF).) HP executives said that their company would supply the HP software-defined-networking-ready fabric components, with a terabit of I/O as “futureproofing” for succeeding generations. Pricing will begin at $61,875 for the enclosure, 45 HP ProLiant Moonshot servers and an integrated switch.

As a proof point of Moonshot’s efficiency, Mark Potter, HP’s senior vice president and general manager of infrastructure software and blades, said that Moonshot was now powering HP.com, a site that receives 3 million hits a day: “We can now run that off the equivalent [power] of 12 60-watt light bulbs.”

The processor cartridge that forms the basis of Moonshot allows numerous processor vendors to be used in the future. For now, Moonshot will be based around Intel’s S1200 Atom processor, the Centerton chip that Intel launched last December—but Moonshot processors will also be supplied by AMD Applied Micro, Calxeda, Intel, and Texas Instruments, including both 32-bit and 64-bit ARM processors, plus the more traditional X86 designs.

HP named three customers—Savvis, CGG, and the University of Purdue—as three of the first customers deploying Moonshot. HP also announced a “Pathfinder Innovation” series of labs across the world, where customers could visit, try out Moonshot for themselves, then return home and remotely run workloads on top of the servers to test them further.


Image: HP

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