HP looks to set new standard for datacenter density

Bringing ARM to the datacenter is HP's first step in changing the way the datacenter game is played.
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

HP's mutli-phase Project Moonshot looks to increase the density of datacenter servers while decreasing space and power requirements, with claims of systems that will use 83% less energy and occupy 63% less space on your datacenter floor. HP's perspective is that with every computing device seeming to develop a web presence (their prediction is 5 to 8 billion devices by 2014) it will become very difficult for traditional web provider architectures to meet the demand.

The enabling technology for this first phase of Project Moonshot is the Redstone development platform. Based on the Calxeda EnergyCore ARM Server-on-a-chip technology announced shortly before the HP announcement on 11/1, HP is looking to maximize the density opportunity provided by the Calxeda technology with a fully populated rack which will contain 2800 servers. Additionally, HP is providing dense storage for these Redstone racks, as well with a 1U rack mount that will hold up to 12 TB of high-performance storage on 24 spindles.

The initial operating system for these high-density environments will be the Canonical Linux implementation. Canonical announced that they were working with Calxeda months ago and is the launch operating system for the Calxeda partners.

HP, however, is leveraging their experience in promoting new datacenter technologies (they likened the Project Moonshot launch to their introduction of blade servers) and will be opening up the HP Discovery Lab, where partners and customers will be able to start to test and evaluate their implementations of these technologies in a fully equipped datacenter test environment. The first site will open in the US in early 2012, with additional lab sites planned for Europe and Asia. The labs will be accessible both in person and remotely so that users will have multiple ways of evaluating these technologies.

Another component of the project is the Pathfinder program where members, who represent a broad spectrum of the vendor community from ARM manufacturers to traditional CPU vendors such as AMD also are part of the effort to help customers come up with hardware which is reduced in complexity, still delivers high performance, and is power efficient.

The reference to Project Moonshot clearly indicates that HP feels that this new technology approach will be a game changer for datacenters and web service providers. When the US started working on their manned spaceflight program, the first rocket used to launch n American into space, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., was a Redstone booster, so HP clearly sees this as a launch effort that will drive future efforts with this technology.   It did make me wonder if the group that named this project remembered Shepard's famous response to what he was thinking about as he sat there, atop the rocket, waiting to be launched; "The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder."

I'm pretty sure that isn't the message that HP wants to send. But the message that an aggressive team, working in concert to deliver on a new technology, can succeed, is one to take to heart.

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