HP’s Project Moonshot Targets ‘Extreme Low Energy’ Servers

By Derek Top

HP unveiled a plan for new, low-energy server technology and launched a hyperscale business unit committed to data center efficiencies.

The program, dubbed Project Moonshot, includes a server computing design intended for high-volume, large-scale data environments — such as those found in web- and cloud-based applications — and could reduce energy requirements by up to 90 percent.

HP is a partnering with Calxeda for the server chips, which are based on smartphone computing processing technology. The ARM-based processor, called EnergyCore server-on-a-chip, consumes as little as 1.5 watts per chip. This compares to Intel-based x86 server architectures, which are found in 90 percent of current data center servers, and use about 20 watts per chip.

With the EnergyCore-based servers, HP plans is to target high-volume data center operations — web services, social media, and content-delivery applications -– that handle huge amounts of data. Among the potential applications included so-called “Big Data” applications, scalable analytics such as Apache Hadoop, streaming media, and mid-tier infrastructure, such as caching and in-memory databases.

“The HP-designed system contains 288 Calxeda servers in a single 7 inch, four-rack unit chassis,” said Barry Evans, CEO and founder with Calxeda. “A single rack of HP’s Calxeda servers delivers the throughput of some 700 traditional servers and dramatically simplifies the infrastructure needed to hook them all together and manage the cluster.”

The new hyperscale HP business unit is intended to pool resources in a federated environment to reduce space requirements, handle management complexities and ultimately use less energy. The unit includesConverged Infrastructure as is its foundation, along the technology program and energy management architecture HP Data Center Smart Grid, as well as the recently announced HP Ecopad, facilities to maximize data center density.

The Project Moonshot program consists of three components:

  • HP Discovery Lab:  Industry collaboration facilities for partners and customers to test and benchmark applications on the HP Redstone Server Development Platform, as well as on traditional servers. The first lab is scheduled to open in Houston in January, with additional sites planned to open in Europe and Asia.
  • HP Pathfinder Program: Data center client efforts to encourage development within open industry standards. The program includes independent software vendors — compute, storage and networking partners who contribute hardware, software and technical expertise. Initial participants are expected to include AMD, ARM Holdings, Calxeda, Canonical and Red Hat.
  • HP Redstone Server Development Platform: A platform based on existing SL6500 servers that feature Calxeda low-energy server processors. Future Redstone versions will include Intel Atom-based processors, as well as others. HP Redstone is designed for testing and proof of concept. It incorporates more than 2,800 servers in a single rack, reducing cabling, switching and the need for peripheral devices, and delivering a 97 percent reduction in complexity, said HP in a statement.

Announced at HP Labs in Palo Alto, Calif., HP says production of the new ARM-powered servers is slated for the second half of 2012 and delivered to select customers. Still, the company clearly believes there’s a market for ARM-powered server now in the future.

“New data center capacity is expected to double between now and [2015],” said Paul Santeler, VP and general manager for HP’s Hyperscale Business. “We have to think about new technologies that are going to enable quantum leaps in energy efficiency, cost and space.”

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