HP's Project Moonshot Aims to Increase Efficiency in Servers

Dave Courbanou

November 3, 2011

3 Min Read
HP's Project Moonshot Aims to Increase Efficiency in Servers

In its never-ending quest to build green IT and power efficient servers, HP is using Calxeda EnergyCore ARM Cortex CPUs in its new server line. The Calxeda technology is specifically designed for “emerging extreme low-energy” needs, so what does that mean for the future of servers? I have a few ideas …

HP has dubbed its new server line HP Redstone Server Development Platform, and the company plans to use ARM CPUs and Intel Atom CPUS “as well as others,” according to HP. I’m not entirely sure what other kind of mobile CPUs HP could be using (perhaps AMD’s APUs?) but it’s clear HP is openly building something experimental. HP admitted it’s “proof of concept,” but so far it’s incredibly impressive — HP has shoved more than 2,800 of these little servers into a single rack, which boasts a “97 percent reduction in complexity.”

The HP Redstone Server project, which will be available to select customers only in the first half of 2012, is part of HP’s  Project Moonshot, which is a …

multiyear, multi-phased program that builds on HP’s experience powering the world’s largest cloud infrastructures and 10 years of extensive low-energy computing infrastructure research from HP Labs, the company’s central research arm.

But we need to think bigger than tiny servers. Server farms based on this kind of technology have the potential to shake up the entire high-tech server industry, especially the SMB. Right now, mobile CPUs are becoming increasingly impressive — just look at the A5 CPU on the iPad or the Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core chips inside Android tablets. These ARM CPUs are playing HD 3D video games and multitasking, and they do it with minimal energy or space usage — and they’re relatively cheap.

If HP’s trend catches on, data centers could literally become data closets again. Right now, HP’s implementation of ARM CPUs don’t seem to be modular, but in a short time, servers could slide in and out like traditional blade servers, but they’d be the size and shape and size of an iPhone or iPad instead of a pizza box. Such an advancement would cut down on not just energy, but also materials and, potentially, downtime, which could make everything cheaper. Backup servers could be as easy to store as a stack of DVDs.

HP’s move to mobile CPU servers is wrought by its desire to go green and reduce complexity, but I also see it as a confirmation that consumierzation of IT is affecting more than just the way we access our data and work. It’s affecting the way we think about building complex things. Maybe in 2030, we’ll all have a little data closet of our own, with 2,800 servers humming away.

What really remains to be seen is performance. HP hasn’t benchmarked it yet, but it has plans for lab testing in January 2012. Whether these racks perform best as file servers, firewalls, NAS or virtualization clusters remains to be seen. But make no mistake, this is definitely the start of something very cool and very new.

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