HP to announce Project Moonshot hyperscale servers next week

HP says the Project Moonshot servers will save money, space and energy

Hewlett-Packard next week will unveil a class of hyperscale servers as part of Project Moonshot, the company's attempt to build densely packed low-power servers that can scale performance quickly.

The company on Tuesday morning sent out invites for a webcast event on April 8 to unveil the Project Moonshot platform. HP's CEO Meg Whitman and Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of the company's enterprise group, will participate in the event.

The launch of Project Moonshot will be the culmination of close to one-and-a-half years of HP's experimentation in low-power server designs for hyperscale environments. Project Moonshot was first unveiled in November 2011 with an ARM server design, and later expanded to include a dense server with Intel's low-power Atom processors. The prototype servers were available to specific customers for testing, and release of the final products was delayed multiple times.

HP hopes to reduce power and space requirements with the new servers, which are aimed at large data centers that handle Internet traffic and cloud implementations. Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon have built large data centers and are adding thousands of servers by the day to handle the growing number of Web and Internet requests.

With the low-power servers, HP is placing preference on faster delivery of information rather than processing power. Whitman last month said that the Project Moonshot platform would use 89 percent less energy, 94 percent less space and cost 63 percent less than a traditional x86 server environment. Traditional x86 server environments use the more power-hungry Intel Xeon or Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors, which have more processing power and are seen as being more suitable for data-intensive workloads such as databases.

HP, in a case study, said a Moonshot server installation occupying one-half a rack, priced at US$1.2 million and drawing 9.9 kilowatts, could replace an installation of 1,600 servers priced at $3.3 million and drawing 91 kilowatts per hour.

The products will be an addition to HP's current server lineup, which includes the ProLiant Gen8 tower, rack and blade servers and the mission-critical NonStop servers. The company also builds modular data centers and workload-specific servers for implementations tied to databases and cloud.

HP has said that the servers will be architecture-agnostic and support Intel Atom and ARM processors, which form the basis for smartphone and tablet processors. The first servers will likely support Intel's Atom S1200 chip, which has been repurposed for servers with 64-bit support. HP did not respond to requests for comment on further information about the servers.

HP last year showed a server design called Gemini that supported both ARM and Intel CPUs. There is also growing industry support for ARM and Intel interoperability in servers, and the Facebook-backed Open Compute Project in January announced the "Group Hug" motherboard slot design, which would support x86 and ARM CPUs.

Moonshot servers could be used in large data centers, private cloud implementations or by service providers in specific-use cases, said Crawford Del Prete, executive vice president of worldwide research at IDC.

Companies are increasingly trying to get more productivity and power efficiency out of servers, and implementing low-power cores could help efficiently run specific Web and cloud tasks, Del Prete said.

But companies that choose ARM servers will have to work with HP to recompile code, Del Prete said.

Server applications are mostly written for x86 processors, but there is growing support for ARM with companies like Red Hat, Cloudera, Ubuntu and Oracle bringing OS and software support to ARM architecture.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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