HP’s Moonshot Hyperscale Servers To Arrive In The Summer

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Project Moonshot lands in the second quarter of the year

This week, along with its financial results, Hewlett-Packard has announced the approximate launch date for its first power-efficient hyperscale server. Codenamed ‘Moonshot’, the new platform, based on Intel’s Atom chips, could go on sale as early as April.

According to HP, the Moonshot architecture can house thousands of servers in a single rack and provides energy savings of up to 89 percent, when compared against traditional x86 servers. It also takes up 94 percent less space and costs 63 percent less.

Efficiency war

Announced in 2011, Project Moonshot was specifically designed for companies that deliver web services, social media and simple content, since they place the emphasis on server cost and power requirements instead of pure computational performance.

RedstonePlatform_full (Small)Moonshot servers will become some of the first to commercially test the concept of hyperscale – high density systems which contain a very large number of relatively underpowered processors, as opposed to the big, fast, hot and power-hungry chips traditionally used in the data centre.

HP said that in addition to other advantages, Moonshot can also reduce overall complexity of IT infrastructure, since it doesn’t require as many cables, switches and peripheral devices.

In an earnings call on Thursday, CEO Meg Whitman confirmed the new Atom-based servers will be available next quarter.

Originally, HP intended to base the platform around highly efficient ARM chips made by Calxeda. However last year, it had a change of heart, opting to equip the first Moonshot models with specifically designed Intel silicon called ‘Centerton’, which was announced in April 2012.

The resulting platform, codenamed ‘Gemini’, was expected to ship by the end of 2012, which means HP has fallen behind its own schedule. Gemini with ARM processors on board hasn’t been cancelled, and could appear later in the year.

Many analysts agree that spurred by the popularity of ARM chips, power-efficient hyperscale servers will disrupt the IT infrastructure market, and could shift the balance of power away from Intel.

“A lot of hyperscale precursors are starting to appear now, but it is just a dress rehearsal before the release of the 64-bit ARM platform. This will happen in about 18 months, and by this point, ARM will be in a good shape to take off in the data centre,” Chris Tyler, Seneca College’s industrial research chair for open source technology, told TechWeekEurope in October.

AMD later announced that it plans to start shipping its first 64-bit ARM-based servers by 2014.

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