HP Moonshot Servers Ship With Intel Atom (ARM, AMD To Come)

Hewlett-Packard on Monday officially unveiled the first shipments of its high-density, low-energy-consumption HP Moonshot servers based on the Intel Atom S1200 "Centerton" processors and promised future versions based on a wide range of processors including ARM and AMD.

The new HP Moonshot servers mark a radical departure in how servers are architected, said Jim Ganthier, vice president of marketing for HP's Industry Standard Servers and Software group.

"One Moonshot rack is approximately equal to seven to eight racks of existing competitive or even HP ProLiant servers," Ganthier said. "And yes, I can compare them to a ProLiant DL380, the world's best-selling server today."

[Related: HP Intros Low-Energy Data Center Platform Based On ARM Servers ]

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The commercial introduction of the first HP Moonshot servers made Monday a very exciting day, said Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and long-time HP partner.

"This is the next paradigm shift in servers," Baldwin said. "This is just the beginning. They have a lot of other modules that will plug in there. Some will have more power, more CPUs, all sorts of things. This will really differentiate HP from the major players out there with large-scale server environments."

Baldwin gave HP a "two-thumbs-up" on the introduction of the HP Moonshot.

"This is something [HP Enterprise Group Executive Vice President and General Manager] Dave Donatelli was really excited about back at the HP Global Partner Conference," he said. "I'm sure there's going to be a lot of positive reviews. We're going to definitely have them at our next Symposium end-user conference this summer. It will be the hot new thing."

HP in late 2011 first unveiled Project Moonshot as a way to build energy-efficient data center architectures, with initial demonstration systems and even a test cloud built using ARM processors from Austin, Texas-based Calxeda.

However, the first commercial shipments are based on the Intel Atom S1200 "Centerton" processors, which Intel unveiled in December. The Centerton processors are the first Intel low-power-consumption Atom processors to feature 64-bit support.

The Intel Atom S1200-based Moonshot servers use up to 89 percent less energy and 80 percent less space than traditional servers in large part because of their "shared everything" design, Ganthier said.

"HP has taken servers that shared little [and turned them] into servers that share everything, including cables, fans, power supplies, cable arms and switches," he said. "For a dedicated hoster, we put the power of 20 to 45 servers in 4.3U of rack space."

While servers do not ship in 4.3U form factors, Ganthier said the number is convenient because that is about one-tenth of a full rack, which measures 42U.

NEXT: Multi-vendor Ecosystem

In addition to the new HP Moonshot servers, HP also unveiled the Pathfinder Innovation Ecosystem, which is currently a group of 24 vendors that are developing new hardware and software for the Moonshot architecture.

Partners in the Pathfinder Innovation Ecosystem include multiple processor vendors such as AMD, Applied Micro, Calxeda, Cavium, TI, Intel, SRC Computers and Marvell.

Also joining the consortium are operating system vendors Canonical, Linaro, Red Hat and SuSE, as well as such ISVs such as Autonomy, Citrix, Couchbase, Cloudera, CyWee, Datastax, Hortonworks, MapR, NuoDB, Parallels and Vertica.

In the near term, HP Moonshot is slated to be available with server cartridges based on the Intel Atom Avoton, the next version of the 64-bit Atom processor that is expected to be the first Atom built using Intel's 22-nanometer process, as well as new ARM processors from Calxeda.

Raejeanne Skillern, director of marketing for cloud computing at Intel, wrote in a Monday blog post that servers based on the Atom Avoton processors are expected to ship in the second half of 2013, and that Moonshot servers based on the Avoton will feature four times the density of those based on the Atom Centerton processors.

"2013 is and will be a great year for Intel and HP Moonshot. We have not only enabled the first Moonshot system to lift-off but with Avoton we will also bring HP Moonshot’s customers a revolution in energy efficiency and performance per watt to drive major TCO improvements when processing lightweight web scale workloads," Skillern wrote.

HP's Ganthier confirmed that Atom Avoton processor-based Moonshot servers are expected to ship before year-end.

Karl Freund, vice president of marketing at Calxeda, said in an emailed statement that while HP announced the availability of a single-node Intel Centerton Atom cartridge for Moonshot, a version of Moonshot featuring Calxeda servers should be available within the next quarter or two.

"The fully functional quad-node Moonshot server cartridges working at 1.4 GHz in Calxeda labs now, have 4X the density of Intel Centerton with higher performance per node. Calxeda will be able to support HP's launch schedule to ensure their customers have access to production-quality Calxeda-based Moonshot servers later this year, with up to 180 quad-core EnergyCores in the 4U Moonshot server chassis at 1.4 GHz," Freund wrote.

Unlike Calxeda EnergyCore, Intel's new Centerton chipset has not been available for testing, Freund wrote. We look forward to seeing how well we do against it when it begins shipping. ... As HP has often reiterated, Moonshot is designed to be processor agnostic," he wrote.

Ganthier said that HP has already started training its solution providers in the new HP Moonshot servers, and that the company next months will add channel partner programs around the new servers.

"Moonshot is an extremely important piece of HP's channel strategy," he said.