HP Launches New Apollo High-Performance Computing Systems

First there were Hewlett-Packard Moonshot servers. Now there are HP Apollo high-performance computing systems.

HP unveiled the Apollo 6000 and 8000 systems, which are aimed at establishing dramatic breakthroughs in supercomputing price performance, at its Discover conference in Las Vegas Monday.

"This is redefining how customers look at supercomputing," said HP Server Vice President of Global Marketing Jim Ganthier, who holds 14 U.S. technology patents. "We are delivering breakthroughs not just in terms of performance and power and cooling, but doing it in a lot less space and in data centers of all sizes."

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HP, Palo Alto, Calif., is billing the new Apollo 8000 system as the first 100 percent liquid-cooled supercomputer. That's a huge breakthrough given that liquid cooling has been ruled out with supercomputers because of design difficulties and the risk of water damage. HP said it has solved the liquid-cooling conundrum with new patented technologies that drive big savings in power and cooling.

That liquid-cooling breakthrough already is being exploited by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Labs, which is using the Apollo 8000 to save an estimated $1 million ($800,000 in operating expenses per year and another $200,000 in heating costs), according to Steve Hammond, director of the Computational Science Center for the U.S National Renewable Energy Labs.

The Apollo 6000 system, which can accommodate up to 160 servers per rack, also is delivering dramatic savings in operating expenses and energy efficiency. In fact, Intel is seeing up to a 35 percent performance increase in its electronic silicon design automation application workloads with the 5,000 new Intel-based Apollo systems it has deployed, according to Intel CIO Kim Stevenson. That is critical given the pressure Intel engineers are under to break chip design barriers.

The customer scenarios are proof positive that HP has succeeded in redefining high-performance computing/supercomputing price performance barriers, said Ganthier. "These are not just claims," he said. "That's the reason you can hear the excitement in my voice. This is about real-world customers that are already seeing the benefits."

HP made the decision to invest in the new high-performance/supercomputing platform because of the unrealistic power cooling economics prevalent in the supercomputing market today, said Ganthier. "The present course is unsustaintable," he said. "If you continue the present course/speed over the next five years, you would need a gigawatt of power, the output of Hoover Dam, and 30 football fields to accommodate the space requirements. A leader was needed to step up and come up with a totally brand new architecture."

Ganthier said he expects the new Apollo systems, which have been designed to deliver up to four times the performance of standard rack systems, to shake up the current crop of high-performance computing players.

HP said the Apollo systems are available immediately and pricing is available upon request because of the customized configurations demanded by supercomputing customers.

The Apollo 6000 will be attractive for solution providers serving the financial services and CAD/CAM design markets, said Ganthier.

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Both Apollo and Moonshot deliver big gains in performance workload per dollar, per watt in a small space, but Apollo is focused squarely at the highest-performance applications with a liquid-cooling model, said Ganthier. A liquid-cooled Apollo 8000 has 144 servers per rack vs. a Moonshot server accommodating thousands of servers in a rack. "In the high-performance computing market you need big horsepower processors that run hot," he said.

HP also is using Apollo to power an HP Helion self-service high-performance computing private cloud solution based on the HP Helion OpenStack cloud platform. HP is providing a self-service portal containing the high-performance computing resources via a cloud interface with a pay-as-you-go model.

Al Chien, executive vice president of Dasher Technologies, a Campbell, Calif.-based HP Platinum partner, said the Apollo systems are a great example of the R&D breakthroughs that have become part and parcel of HP under CEO Meg Whitman.

"There is going to be a big trickle-down effect for generations to come as a result of the R&D dollars HP is putting into products like the Apollo systems," he said. "I see us benefiting from this kind of innovation down the road. There are very few companies that can drive this kind of innovation. That is one of the benefits of being an HP partner."

Chien said he sees big R&D investments under Whitman as a big differentiator in the years to come. "I couldn't be happier with Meg's leadership," he said. "I think there is some unfairness on Wall Street with regard to HP being compared to the stock of some newer companies. We are wildly excited about the path that HP is on. I think 2015 is going to be a huge year for HP. The leadership team has set the right course and made all the right bets."