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HP Aims To Reshape Datacenters with Moonshot Servers

For once there's noise coming out of Hewlett-Packard this week that doesn't center on the dysfunction that has surrounded the company for the past two-plus years. As expected, the company this week started shipping its next-generation server architecture known as Project Moonshot.

This is not just about the latest update to a server line. Project Moonshot represents an entirely different system architecture. It also introduces the first major shift in server form-factors since HP's release of blade servers a decade ago. In these racks are cartridges that are half the size of a typical laptop PC. The company describes Moonshot-based systems as software defined servers that have networking and storage interfaces built into the racks as well.

But what's really unique  is these new systems take up 80 percent less space, use 89 percent less energy and cost 77 percent less, the company says. "HP is taking head on the challenges of space, energy, cost and complexity of the datacenters for today and tomorrow," said CEO Meg Whitman, in a Webcast kicking off the launch Monday.

"This is not an incremental change, it's the launch of a new class of servers," added Dave Donatelli, executive VP of HP's enterprise group.  "With current server technology, the economics behind social, mobile, cloud and big data will begin to deteriorate rapidly as requirements for servers continue to escalate,"

The first deliverable is the HP Moonshot 1500, based on a 4.3U chassis that supports up to 45 hot-pluggable server cartridges and shares storage  -- both traditional hard disk drives and flash-based solid state drives -- and network interfaces. And the initial crop is powered by Intel Atom S1260 processors. Look for future systems to support ARM-based processors, those used to power tablets and smartphones, this year as well.

HP is initially only offering support for Linux (Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu) and KVM virtual machines but company officials said customers will be able to specify Windows and VMware-based virtualization later this year.

"Windows server support will roll out later in the year and also on additional targeted server cartridges when they're available," explained John Gromala, HP's director of product marketing for industry standard servers and software, in an interview. "It will be specifically targeted towards workloads and applications that are actually taking advantage of those specific types of offerings."

Asked if any customers are testing Moonshot systems bundled with Windows Server, Gromala confirmed they are but he declined to elaborate. It appears HP will only be offering Windows Server 2012.

By virtue of these substantially smaller sized systems, coupled with the equally dramatically lower power consumption requirements (the equivalent of six 60-watt light bulbs), the release of HP's first Moosnshot systems is a key milestone for a company that has struggled to find its way of late. Not that HP pulled Project Moonshot out of a hat. Project Moonshot was a key initiative that HP Labs has had under development for many years.

Presuming these systems perform as advertised, they promise to change the footprint of many datacenters over time. Just like blade servers didn't initially take off (from any vendors), the economics ultimately made them appealing. We'll see if Project Moonshot has the same impact.

 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/10/2013 at 1:15 PM


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