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HP Launches Moonshot

Moonshot is supposed to become a family of software-defined servers that are workload-optimized

Hewlett-Packard Monday distracted the press and the market from its executive suite dramas by putting out its promised Project Moonshot, the energy-sipping Atom-based microserver it expects to change its flagging server fortunes and be altogether disruptive.

The widgetry, cast as a new class of server for social, mobile, cloud, Big Data and general scale-out use cases, is supposed to sell into the new hyper-scale data center, where HP claims the traditional 25-year-old server architecture doesn't suit and has, in fact, created a crisis of economics.

"With nearly 10 billion devices connected to the Internet and predictions for exponential growth, we've reached a point where the space, power and cost demands of traditional technology are no longer sustainable," CEO Meg Whitman said. "HP Moonshot marks the beginning of a new style of IT that will change the infrastructure economics and lay the foundation for the next 20 billion devices."

HP's first commercial Moonshot system, its second-generation ProLiant Moonshot 1500, is supposed to offer 80% less space, 89% less energy and 97% less complexity at 23% of the cost of HP's own quad-core dual-Xeon ProLiant DL380.

HP said in a webcast that the initial boxes have been beta tested by 50 accounts and would start shipping immediately in the US and Canada followed by the rest of the world next month.

Savvis, the cloud company owned by Century Link, is one of Moonshot's first customers. It was there to say a few words about time-to-market at the launch.

Moonshot is supposed to become a family of software-defined servers - based on different chips - that are workload-optimized and updated on a release schedule that's three-times faster than the classic server. Figure every three to six months. The servers will have different performance characteristics.

The Moonshot roadmap ultimately anticipates using chips, presumably ARM chips, from AMD, Applied Micro, TI and Calxeda as well as follow-on Intel chips, which like the Atom S1200 chip in the new Moonshot box are currently popular in smartphones and tablets. They can also support graphics and Flash as well as hard drives.

The Moonshot 1500 comes in a 4.3u server enclosure, equipped with 45 application-optimized Intel-based servers packaged as clip-in cartridges along with a network switch and supporting components.

It's good for web-hosting workloads and costs $61,875 to start for the enclosure, the 45 Moonshot servers and the integrated switch. HP is running hp.com on the stuff, which gets three million visitors a day, and is now seeing a reported 90% improvement.

The box is expected to favor Linux installations but being x86 could also run Windows and VMware.

The design lets HP pack 1,800 of these newfangled servers in a rack since they only take up an eighth the space of a traditional server. The energy HP is now spending on hp.com is equal to all of a dozen 60-watt light bulbs, which is why HP thinks it's disruptive - and for the moment unique, suggesting that HP can occasionally "Invent."

Each chassis shares traditional components including the HP Labs-provided fabric, HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLo) management, power supply and cooling fans. These shared components reduce complexity as well as add to the reduction in energy use and space.

HP said the Moonshot servers that come out in the second half will support emerging web, cloud and massive-scale environments, as well as analytics and telecommunications. Future servers will be delivered for Big Data, high-performance computing, gaming, financial services, genomics, facial recognition, video analysis and other applications.

HP wants to create a Moonshot ecosystem so it's set up a Pathfinder Innovation Ecosystem including nearly 25 silicon vendors, operating system developers and ISVs dedicated to the rapid development of new servers to support varied workloads. Interested parties can try out the widgetry at HP Discovery Labs and the company is ready with technical support and consulting.

See TheDisruption.com.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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