Calxeda Unveils Plans For ARM-Based HP Moonshot Servers

Hewlett-Packard on Monday said it has started shipping the HP Moonshot servers.

The high-density, low-energy-consumption HP Moonshot servers are currently based on the Intel Atom S1200 "Centerton" processors, but HP promised that future versions would be based on a wide range of processors including models from ARM and AMD.

[Related: HP Moonshot Servers Ship With Intel Atom (ARM, AMD To Come) ]

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.

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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.

Karl Freund, vice president of marketing at Calxeda, said his company expects the HP Moonshot server based on the Calxeda EnergyCore ARM technology to be available to beta customers this Summer, with volume production likely to start by the end of the year.

"It depends on when it gets through HP's qualification system, the so-called 'meat grinder' you have to go through to meet HP's quality standards," Freund said.

HP would not be the first server vendor to use Calxeda's EnergyCore ARM processor-based server cartridges. Others include Penguin Computing and U.K.-based Boston. Freund said. Dell also has a system it is using to evaluate the market, while Avnet is working with the technology to develop systems for unnamed customers as part of the Open Compute Project, he said.

When HP releases Moonshot servers based on Calxeda technology, they will feature 32-bit ARM processors, which feature a separate instruction set from the 64-bit, x86-compatible Atom Centerton S1200 processors found in the current Moonshot servers, Freund said.

The different instruction set and the 32-bit technology are not really competitive disadvantages in the target market being addressed by high-density, low-power-consumption servers like Moonshot, he said.

"Most of the target workloads that ARM and Atom are going after don't care what the instruction set is," he said. "These are primarily Web applications."

When the Calxeda ARM processors become available for the HP Moonshot servers, customers should expect a huge jump in compute density and in power efficiency, Freund said.

"One Calxeda cartridge has four servers vs. one for the Atom cartridge," he said. "If density and scalability is a concern, Calxeda is the answer. We're four-times as dense. And we're three to five times as power-efficient."

Freund could not give exact power efficiency comparisons between the Calxeda ARM and the Intel Atom processors as the Atoms have not been available to do benchmark testing, he said.