HP Sees Interest From Apple, Others in Moonshot Servers: Report

CEO Meg Whitman says that large scale-out data center operators, including Chinese search giant Baidu, are eying the vendor's low-power microservers.

Hewlett-Packard reportedly is receiving interest in its low-power Project Moonshot microservers from a number of big-name companies, including Apple.

At the same time, Chile’s largest IT services provider, Synapsis, recently announced it is beginning to deploy HP’s Intel-based Moonshot servers into its data center infrastructure, with officials noting significant savings in both floor space and power consumption.

These companies run the kind of scale-out, extremely dense environments that HP is targeting with its Moonshot systems, which were announced in November 2011 and which began to roll out earlier this year.

It’s also an area that is increasingly becoming highly competitive, not only among system makers but also among chip vendors, which are designing low-power systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) aimed at small, dense and energy-efficient microservers.

HP CEO Meg Whitman recently told the CRN Website that the Moonshot systems are generating interest among some major Web 2.0 companies, particularly service providers, including Apple and Baidu, China’s largest search engine.

“That whole list of very big scale-out computing companies are all very interested in this,” Whitman told the news site.

Officials at Synapsis in Chile said on the company’s Website that the company has been an HP customer for almost two decades, first installing a high-end HP9000 Superdome Unix system. In 2010, the company embraced HP’s BladeSystem Matrix, a converged data center solution.

Now the company is beginning to install and deploy Moonshot 1500 systems, which are powered by Intel’s Atom S1200 “Centerton” SoCs, which were released in December 2012. Synapsis officials expect the Moonshot systems to save 77 percent in floor space and 89 percent in power consumption over traditional x86-based ProLiant servers.

Trends such as cloud computing, mobility and big data are rapidly changing the workloads that are running in scale-out data centers, where organizations are being asked to process huge numbers of small tasks. These companies are running massive centers, so density, power efficiency and cost are increasingly important.

System vendors like HP, with its Moonshot systems, and Dell, with its Copper initiative, are looking to answer the demand with small, energy-efficient systems that run on a variety of chip platforms, from x86 SoCs from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices to upcoming offerings powered by chips designed by ARM and made by such partners as Calxeda, Marvell Technology and—starting next year—AMD.

Intel is pushing its Atom platform, which was first developed for netbooks, into the microserver space. The company is readying its second generation of Atom server chips, dubbed “Avoton,” for release later this year and in 2014 will unveil the 14-nanometer “Denverton” SoC. In addition, the company next year will launch a low-power SoC version of the “Broadwell” Xeon technology.

AMD in May announced its x86-based Opteron-X “Kyoto” chips aimed at microservers and is looking to become a significant player in the dense server space via the technology—including systems and the Freedom Fabric—acquired when it bought SeaMicro in February 2012. In addition, AMD starting next year will begin making server SoCs based on ARM designs.

Several chip makers, including Calxeda and Marvell, already are offering 32-bit ARM-based server chips. However, ARM officials expect to begin an aggressive push into the data center when systems based on its upcoming ARMv8 design—which will include 64-bit capabilities and stronger support for virtualization, among other data center features—will begin hitting the market.

HP officials have said they intend to use SoCs from AMD, Calxeda and other ARM partners—along with Intel chips—in upcoming Moonshot servers.