HP to Ship 64-Bit ARM-Based Moonshot Server in 2014

The company also has 32-bit ARM server modules running in its labs, with plans to launch those next year as well.

Hewlett-Packard next year reportedly will ship the first of its low-power Project Moonshot servers running on 64-bit ARM-based processors from Applied Micro.

The tech giant, which earlier this year launched the first Moonshot systems powered by Intel's Atom systems on a chip (SoCs), has three ARM-powered servers running in its labs now, including ones running on Applied Micro's 64-bit X-Gene chips.

The other two are powered by 32-bit ARM chips from Texas Instruments and Calxeda, Martin Fink, HP's chief technology officer and director of HP Labs, reportedly said during an Oct. 29 keynote at the ARM TechCon 2013 show in Santa Clara, Calif.

HP officials first introduced Project Moonshot in 2011, making headlines by saying the company was partnering with Calxeda to put ARM-based chips into the server modules. ARM's low-power SoC designs—which it licenses to partners such as Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia—are found in most smartphones and tablets.

However, in hyperscale data center environments, where huge numbers of servers process massive amounts of small transactions, power efficiency can at times be more important than performance. The demand for energy efficiency is fueling the growth in microservers, and ARM and its partners see an opportunity to expand the reach of the ARM architecture into the data center. The bulk of ARM-based chips now are 32-bit, though ARM next year is expected to launch its 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture, which will include other data center features, such as greater support for virtualization and more memory.

With growing trends such as cloud computing, social networking and big data, and the rising numbers of mobile devices connecting to the Internet, companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are looking for ways to get more compute power into their data centers without increasing the amount of energy being consumed. Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are driving down the power consumptions in their x86-based chips to meet the demand and compete with ARM's architecture. At the same time, AMD next year will start building 64-bit ARM-based server SoCs as well.

System makers also see the advantage of leveraging the architecture. Not only is HP pursuing ARM chips for its Moonshot systems, but Dell at the TechCon show is demonstrating its low-power "Copper" microserver, which also is being run on Applied Micro's X-Gene chip.

"This is a key milestone for customers seeking to run real-world workloads on 64-bit ARM technology," Robert Hormuth, executive director of platform and architecture for the office of the CTO at Dell, wrote in a post on the company blog.

During his presentation, HP's Fink showed a slide outlining the ARM-based systems HP has running in its labs. One is a 32-bit system powered by Calxeda that will be aimed at cloud apps, while the server running on Texas Instruments' 32-bit SoC will include a digital signal processor (DSP), a coprocessor that will better support such communications applications as voice-over-IP (VoIP) and video.

The 32-bit systems also will ship next year, according to Fink. HP's first Moonshot systems used Intel's Atom S1200 "Centerton" chips, with the latest modules running on the Atom C2000 "Avoton" SoCs.

HP also is planning to grow the number of open-source programming tools for Project Moonshot, he said, according to EE Times.