09 April 2013, 10:36
Since 2011, HP has been developing microservers for cloud data centres under the code name Project Moonshot. Pilot customers are already able to use pre-release versions with systems on a chip (SoCs) from US company Calxeda. Each of these Energycore chips has four ARM processor cores, albeit 32-bit Cortex-A9s. The first commercial Moonshot devices are, however, equipped with Intel server Atom chips. Intel released its Atom S1200, also known as Centerton, in late 2012; the more powerful Avoton is scheduled for release in late 2013. In contrast to Atoms for netbooks and for smartphones, the server versions support more RAM, ECC error correction, virtualisation and PCI Express 2.0.
According to HP, Ubuntu 12.04, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 are supported operating systems on the Atom-based Moonshot. The first Moonshot system, available in the second half of 2013, will be the Moonshot 1500 chassis, which is 4.3 rack units high and is equipped with 45 Atom-S1200-based ProLiant Moonshot servers, an Ethernet switch and additional "support components". Prices start at €50,605.
Source: HP HP names AMD, Applied Micro, Calxeda and Texas Instruments as further SoC partners. All have announced ARM chips and plan to release their first 64-bit versions in 2014. Moonshot should permit up to 1800 servers per rack, though that will only become possible with the forthcoming release of the Avoton Atoms, of which HP will pack four, each with its own dedicated RAM and network chip, onto a cartridge. Rather than being limited to just two, each Avoton will feature up to eight CPU cores, though such cartridges will require more power.
The low power consumption of the server Atoms is impressive, but they are not particularly fast. Consequently, the servers are efficient for certain workloads and applications only. HP uses the term "software-defined servers", and the aim is, with the collaboration of pilot customers, to develop server cartridges optimised for specific applications. This is perfect territory for some ARM SoCs. HP also plans to deploy AMD APUs and TI KeyStone chips with multiple DSPs. These would, for example, be of interest for content delivery networks (transcoding) or certain supercomputing tasks.