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Taking the HP Moonshot to the Parallels universe: the server cartridge approach to virtualisation

The HP Moonshot server system has the greatest potential as a cost-effective alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach of virtualisation. A virtualised system provides differentiation only at the software level, so that the hardware is not optimised for any particular task, but rather to deliver decent performance across a broad range of common tasks.

HP Moonshot, in contrast, opts for a cartridge-based system to provide server modules with hardware that is tailored for particular server activities. However, Moonshot doesn't preclude virtualisation. In fact, in tandem with Parallels Containers, it can provide a highly efficient performance platform for virtualisation. In this feature we look at the benefits of this approach.

The way HP's Moonshot server uses a cartridge-based system is at the heart of its unique potential. A centralised rack-mount chassis provides shared redundant power and a network switching backplane, but the servers come as modules with specific target uses that can be mixed and matched.

So a single Moonshot chassis can, for example, deliver web servers, virtual desktops and web caching alongside dedicated real-time media transcoding – all with specialised hardware for each task. The benefit of this is that the hardware's processor type, memory and storage type and allocation are all optimised for the task, rather than being a virtual slice of generalised hardware.

This has performance benefits, amongst others. But the hardware capability can easily be expanded when required with the addition of further hot-installable cartridges, or a new chassis when the original one is full.

This might seem like the polar opposite of the virtualisation strategy that underlies the provision of cloud-based services. But using Parallels Containers, a HP Moonshot server can be the perfect option for implementing virtual servers for cloud services.

HP ProLiant m300 or m350 cartridges, for example, can provide an ideal foundation for running Parallels Containers and web server workloads. Parallels Containers has been shown to provide performance for individual workloads in the virtual environment that is at least as good as if these are running on the bare metal, and potentially even better thanks to advanced memory management capabilities, which can allow at least a 40 per cent improvement in performance.

So whilst virtualisation using hypervisors and management of the processor time slices they use can inject inefficiency, Parallels Containers doesn't suffer from this problem. The Parallels Containers system can also provide three times the density of hypervisors, due to its efficiency.

With Parallels Containers, provisioning of hosting and cloud server plans can take a matter of seconds, and dynamic modification can be equally rapid. These are some of the main benefits of virtualisation, as environments can be booted and closed down independently without having to restart the host system.

Parallels Containers takes a template-based approach, so that standard environments can be provided for immediate loading. There's no need to boot an operating system because the template includes a running environment. This also makes updating simpler, since only the template needs to be updated, which can then be rolled out to all server instances using the same template.

This centralisation of management can reduce maintenance by 75 per cent over traditional servers. It also means that customer self-service panels can be provided, so they can load their own instances.

Existing operating system containers will scale on the fly, with real-time processor, memory and disk space adjustments. The Parallels Cloud Server software runs natively on the Moonshot hardware, but can load containers for a wide range of Linux distributions and, via the Parallels Hypervisor, virtual machines can be created to run various versions of Windows Server, Linux and FreeBSD.

Only a subset of Moonshot cartridges will be appropriate for use with this configuration, but it's still possible to mix and match these as required by the particular Containers and Hypervisor virtual machines that will be used.

When running individual servers, each on their own hardware, this can lead to inefficiency, as some servers may be scarcely utilised whilst others are overburdened. Parallels Containers can ensure full utilisation of a HP Moonshot cartridge, by partitioning each physical server into multiple virtual private servers.

So fewer physical servers are required to provide the same number of workloads, and take maximum advantage of the hardware investment. Up to five virtual servers can be deployed on each HP Moonshot cartridge, and with up to 45 cartridges per Moonshot 1500 Chassis, up to 225 virtual private servers can be offered for each chassis, all of which can be managed at the same time, saving a huge amount of money and time. But resources can also be isolated so that a level of performance can be guaranteed in order to fulfil a service level agreement.

The advantage of running Parallels Containers on HP Moonshot is that whilst there is a virtualisation layer between the containers and the host operating system, the underlying hardware can still be matched to the type of workload that will be used.

But the servers running on it can be provisioned with much greater immediacy, thanks to the virtualisation of Parallels Containers. A single HP ProLiant m300 cartridge can run multiple high density Parallels Containers, with highly efficient use of space, price and energy requirements.

Extra cartridges can still be added only when overall demand rises. So one of the chief benefits of the HP Moonshot system remains. There's no need to over-specify. Hardware can be added just when needed, and tailored to the workloads required.

Parallels Containers is the most widely deployed virtualisation system. It has a huge user base, with more than 9,000 service providers using the software to deliver applications and cloud services to more than 10 million businesses in over 130 countries.

HP's Moonshot system makes the perfect partner for this industry-leading platform, with superb processing density and power economy. The flexibility and scaling potential of a Moonshot chassis means companies can control their expenditure in a more fluid way, growing their hardware provision as demand increases. Companies wishing to test drive what Parallels Containers running on HP Moonshot has to offer can head to their nearest HP Discover Lab, or access this remotely via VPN