HP seeks to shake up data centre market with Moonshot server

11 Apr 2013

The HP Moonshot server

HP believes it can disrupt the data centre market with its newly launched Moonshot server which uses 89pc less energy, occupies 80pc less space and costs 77pc less than a traditional server.

HP claims current data centres are approaching a breaking point because their growth is being restricted by current generations of servers which take up too much space and cost too much to buy and maintain.

First announced in 2011, the new Moonshot server is to be built with chips more commonly found in smartphones and tablets, instead of the processors that have traditionally been used to power servers. This allows the Moonshot units to deliver reduced energy use and a high-density footprint, all at a far lower cost, HP claims.

Declan Hogan, HP Ireland’s lead for servers, storage and networking, said Moonshot uses a cartridge system as opposed to traditional rack or blade servers which require their own power supply and fans.

Moonshot makeup

“The initial Moonshot server is a 4.3u chassis – a typical blade would have 16 blades in a 10u chassis. It’s kind of like a mid-range server but we have 45 cartridges which are basically 45 servers. We have shared power and shared cooling, so that’s where the saving comes from. Effectively, what we’re doing is using lots of lower-powered servers.”

The first iteration of Moonshot servers will be shipping in late May or June across Europe, and these will run Intel’s Atom processor. Over time, HP plans to make different chips available for the platform from the likes of AMD, Applied Micro and Calxeda.

Hogan said the Moonshot is suitable for organisations with more than 40 servers, carrying out tasks like analysis, high-performance computing, financial modelling or games serving.

“We see it being applied across global companies, the financial services sector and anybody doing serious data analysis that will need to scale … a lot of the financial institutions would be doing significant data modelling. We also see it in the pharmaceutical industry, and in any online gaming companies,” he said. “Over time, we think this is going to become the model for future server deployments.”

If the product name gives a clue to HP’s ambitions, other analysts aren’t so upbeat. While HP has its sights on winning business from some of the web’s biggest names, like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others, some have pointed out that this might not be a market that’s easily tapped.  

Shaw Wu, an analyst with Sterne Agee in the US, called Project Moonshot “a step in the right direction” in addressing the fast-growing hyperscale server market.

However, he added: “We are not sure if big customers including Amazon.com, Google, Facebook and Twitter would switch from their current model where they procure customised server and storage components from Quanta and Compal.”

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic