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TI-powered Moonshot in the works, says HP

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DSP? FPGA? GPU? x86? SoCs?

Hewlett-Packard rolled out the first version of its Project Moonshot, a processor-agnostic server which can use DSPs, FPGAs and GPUs as well as x86 and ARM SoCs. It initially uses an Intel Atom-based processor, but will come in versions sporting Texas Instruments' Keystone SoCs as well chips from AMD, Applied Micro and Calxeda before the end of the year.

HP hopes to cover the waterfront with its new 1500-series chassis, a 4.3U system which can pack up to 45 processor or storage cartridges. It aims to deliver a wide range of configurations optimised for a variety of workloads.

For example, TI's Keystone SoCs will run an undisclosed but existing operating system on its four ARM A15 cores and handle security, seismic and other apps on its embedded DSPs. HP is also working with SRC Computers, which has its own line of processors based on Altera Arria and Stratix FPGAs.

Company executives called Moonshot a software-defined system, claiming it marks the next big wave in server design. They claim it draws 89 per cent less energy, uses 80 per cent less space and costs 77 per cent less than HP's current high volume server, the DL380.

Over the next few years, data centres will need as many as 10 million more servers, costing up to $20 billion and drawing as much power as two million US homes, said Meg Whitman, HP's chief executive, speaking in an online video."We've reached a point where the space, power and cost demands of traditional technology are no longer sustainable," she said.

With its announcement, HP aims to maintain its position as the market leader in servers amid potentially disruptive shifts. A wide variety of ARM-based server SoCs are expected to emerge starting in 2014, and graphics processors are gaining traction for some highly parallel applications.

HP announced in June that Intel's Atom-based Centerton, aka the 2GHz Atom S1260, will be the first cartridge available. The system also will support 32- and 64bit ARM cartridges, the first of which could be available within six months.

In an online press event, HP showed a four-chip Calxeda cartridge. The company first announced Project Moonshot showing a Calxeda-based proof-of-concept design in 2011. It opened a lab letting customers try the ARM-based system as well as other prototypes that now have a total of 50 beta testers.

HP's first Moonshot system

HP's Project Moonshot. Packs up to 45 processor or storage cartridges.

Users may be kicking the tires of different ARM server architectures for some time. Within the next 18 months as many as nine companies are expected to field a variety of 64bit ARM server SoCs including AMD, Applied Micro, Cavium, Calxeda, Marvell, Nvidia, Qualcomm, TI and Samsung.

In addition to the processor or storage cartridges, the new HP system also packs two networking modules supporting up to six 10 Gbit/s links, at least two power supplies and five hot pluggable fans. The Ethernet cards support the OpenFlow protocol for software-defined networking.

The Intel-based cartridge shipping now includes a Broadcom 5720 dual-port Gbit Ethernet controller and a Marvell 9125 storage controller. Each cartridge includes either a hard or solid-state drive with capacity ranging from 200GB to a terabyte.

The new design is a logical follow-on to HP's blade-based servers. However it varies significantly from the design promoted by the Facebook-led Open Compute Project. Other big data centre operators, including Google and Microsoft, specify their own server and rack designs although they do not publish them.

For its part, Intel worked with four large data centre operators in China as part of its Project Scorpio to define a rack server architecture. It is expected to follow up that work with another rack design targeting a broader set of customers.

Separately, Dell designed a prototype system for customer testing that uses the 32-but Marvell ARM server SoC, the Armada XP.

Pricing for HP's first Project Moonshot system begins at $61,875 for the enclosure, 45 Intel Centerton server cartridges and an integrated switch. The system is available in the US now and the rest of the world in 30 days.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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