HP announces its second Moonshot ‘leap’

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When it comes to expanding the company’s 'Moonshot' range of specialised, high-density, low-power servers, executives at Hewlett-Packard (HP) don't use the term 'product launch'. They prefer, these days, to talk about 'leaps'.

This week, the company launched its second Moonshot 'leap' at the HP Discover conference in Barcelona. This follows the first 'leap' back in April, when it unveiled the new range of servers that the company claims will use 89 percent less energy, 80 percent less space and 77 percent cost savings, compared to traditional servers. The first offering was a Moonshot server based on Intel’s Centerton Atom chip, designed specifically to handle web hosting tasks.

In HP's parlance, a leap means the introduction of new Moonshot cartridges, tailored to handle specific kinds of workloads. Moonshot servers, meanwhile, are small - so small they are sometimes referred to as ‘microservers’ - but can be packed into vast, dense clusters to provide ‘hyperscale’ computing capabilities.

So what's involved in the second Moonshot leap, we asked Paul Morgan, manager of the hyper scale server business for HP in Europe? The short answer: HP’s first AMD-based Moonshot server; its first ARM-based server; and one designed to handle dynamic web content.

First in that line-up is the HP ProLiant m700 cartridge, designed to support hosted desktops. This is powered by AMD’s Kyoto microprocessor. It’s a four-server cartridge, Morgan explains, with each of the four nodes working as a separate server, for maximum density. Each Moonshot 4.3U chassis, meanwhile, holds around 45 cartridges and ten of these chassis fit in one rack. A couple of service providers, he adds, are already looking at this cartridge, with a view to offering corporate customers a ‘desktop-as-a-service’ offering, but it could equally be used by end-user enterprise customers wanting to virtualise their own desktop estates.

The second new product in the line-up is the m800 cartridge, powered by an ARM chip manufactured by Texas Instruments. This is aimed primarily at telecommunications providers that use digital signal processing (DSP), for voice and data transmission. Today, much of the DSP technology available to them is largely proprietary technology, Morgan explains, and this provides the first “truly open” DSP hardware in the market today. Another possible opportunity here for HP, he adds, is the oil and gas industries, where DSP is used in tasks such as seismic analysis.

The third is the Intel-powered m300 cartridge for dynamic web hosting - in other words, for websites that deliver constantly changing content, such as Flash animations or interactive Ajax-driven menus. While this cartridge uses Intel’s Avoton chip, Morgan explains, HP will continue to offer the Centerton-based Moonshot cartridge, unveiled in April, for hosting more static content. It’s what the company uses to run its own HP.com website, he adds.

All three cartridges that comprise HP’s second Moonshot leap began shipping on 9 December. A third leap, meanwhile, is scheduled for “around four months from now”, says Angela Cross, HP's manager for industry-standard servers and software in the UK & Ireland.

"What Moonshot does is bring us an entirely new way of looking at servers, because we're looking at product development from the software angle, rather than a pure hardware point of view," Cross explains.

"A traditional server can handle different types of workload, depending on how it's configured. The whole idea of Moonshot is that each cartridge is tailored to do a particular job, so it will always be far more efficient than any other server at performing that job.”

That's not just down to the way that "the machine talks to the software", she adds, but also "the removal of any unnecessary components from the configuration, making Moonshot more energy-efficient and more green." In other words, circuitry is stripped from the main board that isn’t needed to perform a designated workload, and by the sharing of power, cooling and networking resources between microservers.

And, she promises, “You’ll start to see regular launches of new cartridges, based on new application usages, on a much more frequent turnaround than we’ve ever been able to do with normal servers, which are far more tied into big deployments by chip manufacturers and the other equipment suppliers with which HP works.”

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