HP Shows Off AMD-Based Moonshot Server Module

The tech giant, which already sells Intel-based systems, brought a module powered by AMD technology to the chip maker's developer event.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Hewlett-Packard next year will roll out a version of its low-power, ultradense Moonshot server powered by Advanced Micro Devices chips and initially aimed at the growing remote desktop industry.

Gary Campbell, infrastructure technology strategy CTO for HP, took the stage briefly here Nov. 11 at AMD's Developer Summit 2013 to show off an upcoming server module that will run on AMD's Opteron chips. Campbell said a remote desktop environment run atop AMD-powered Moonshot systems will be more cost-effective and energy-efficient than a traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment.

The Moonshot servers are HP's answer to the growing demand for more powerful and power-efficient servers from organizations that are running hyperscale data center environments, such as Web-based businesses like Google, Microsoft and Facebook. HP executives first introduced their Project Moonshot in 2011, announcing they were partnering with ARM-based chipmakers like Calxeda, an abrupt departure from HP's reliance on Intel and AMD's x86-based chips.

However, the first Moonshot systems were based on Intel's Atom server systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), "Centeron" and then "Avoton." However, HP officials said they were determined to build systems that ran on other architectures as well. In October, the company announced it currently has ARM-powered systems running in its labs, including servers powered by Applied Micro's 64-bit X-Gene SoCs, and that ARM-based Moonshot systems would be coming to market next year.

Now those systems will be joined by systems running on AMD chips, Campbell said.

HP Moonshot servers are about one-tenth the cost of traditional rack servers, and also use about one-tenth the power, cooling and space of the rack systems, he said. When compared with traditional VDI environments, a remote desktop initiative supporting 180 users based on the AMD-powered Moonshot servers will deploy about 90 percent faster, consume 12 percent the power, come in at about 44 percent the total cost of ownership and offer six times the graphics performance, he said.

AMD officials are aggressively pursuing the fast-growing dense server space. In May, AMD introduced x86-based "Kyoto" Opteron chips for microservers. At the same time, AMD is planning to start rolling out server SoCs based on the ARM architecture next year. The vendor also is looking to gain traction via its SeaMicro business, which got a significant boost last month when Verizon announced it is using SeaMicro's SM15000 servers and its Freedom Fabric as the infrastructure foundation for its new cloud server and storage offering.

ARM executives see an opportunity to move their low-power architecture—which can be found in most smartphones and tablets—into the data center via microservers.

The company in 2014 is expected to release its ARMv8 architecture, which will include such data center features as 64-bit computing, more memory and greater virtualization support. Calxeda and some other chip makers already are offering 32-bit ARM-based server SoCs, while Applied Micro is working to get its 64-bit X-Gene ARM chips ready for market.

However, industry observers don't expect ARM to make much of a dent in the data center—which currently is dominated by Intel's x86 Xeon processors—until the ARMv8 architecture is released.