HP On Its Moonshot Server: Biggest Market Challenge Is Changing Mind-Sets

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Hewlett-Packard's Moonshot servers may be the company's biggest and most ambitious rethinking of server architecture in the past decade. While traditional server innovation has focused on speeds and feeds, HP is taking a radical departure from the server status quo.

At the heart of the Moonshot server is the platform itself, which manages to cram 45 Intel server cartridges into a 4.3U chassis alongside two network switches. It's a high-density ecosystem that weaves together use-specific jobs, local chassis fabric and a converged infrastructure.

"The market dynamics are changing and we are seeing more opportunities for workload-specific servers," said Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech. "We have built an entire practice around media solutions called Future Tech Modern Media Solutions. Moonshot is at its core."

[Related: Moonshot: HP's Bold Rethinking Of The Server]

For Moonshot --a name borrowed from NASA's historic Apollo Moon program -- HP says the sky is the limit as more companies are seeking custom solutions. But today, analysts and HP concede, the market for Moonshot is young and relatively small.

Research firm IDC reports that the market for high-density power-efficient microservers, a close cousin to Moonshot, represents less than 10 percent of the market.

But among those that sell high-density servers, such as HP, Dell, Cisco Systems, Huawei and SuperMicro, HP is considered the market maker, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "As players like AMD drop out of this space, HP has emerged as the biggest player. It’s a brand-new server architecture and a lot of companies are just now seeing how high-density solutions can compete with traditional one-size-fits-all data centers,” said Enderle.

HP, however, said it's seeing success targeting specialized workloads that include media processing, virtual desktops and big data and analytics. HP won’t reveal Moonshot sales figures, but counts dozens of impressive sales wins such as Sandia National Labs, PayPal and the University of Utah.

HP said that today more than 200 partners resell Moonshot with about 20 solution providers, Future Tech among them, selling the bulk of systems. Moonshot's chief selling point comes from the likes of customers such as 20th Century Fox, which uses Moonshot servers to transcode, transfer and distribute terabytes of video data.

"With HP Moonshot, we've been able to reduce our data center space by 50 percent, power and cooling by 87 percent, and hardware costs by 57 percent compared to traditional infrastructure," said John Herbert, CIO of 20th Century Fox, in a testimonial.

To understand how HP achieves those efficiencies, one needs to slide open one of the blades on the one of the servers. What you’ll find is one 4.3U chassis capable of running 180 servers driven by a 45 quad-core cartridge.

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