Review: HP's Moonshot is flexible, manageable, amazing

HP's cartridge-based, hyperscale computing system brings significant server power and high efficiency to a variety of workloads

HP Moonshot System

Innovating in the server space has traditionally meant cranking out new systems with the latest Intel CPUs along with more memory and storage. While that delivery model has served the industry well for many years, the time is right for new approaches that focus on balancing processing power and energy consumption for specific use case scenarios. It's also a great time to bring innovations in processor architecture into the enterprise space in order to reduce operating costs.

HP set out to break the traditional mold with the Moonshot platform. In the initial Moonshot release, which stuffed as many as 45 Intel Atom server cartridges into the 4.3U chassis, HP addressed dynamic Web workloads with a strong focus on reducing the long-term costs associated with powering and cooling data center hardware. With the recent releases of AppliedMicro ARM, Intel Xeon, and Texas Instruments DSP+ARM boards, HP has unleashed the beast on additional workloads, including static Web, virtual desktop infrastructure, and Hadoop.

HP also recently introduced the 45XGc switch module, which provides 10GbE connections to cartridges within the Moonshot chassis. The 45XGc joins 45G and 180G models in the Moonshot switch lineup, which provide 45 1GbE and 180 1GbE internal connections, respectively. The Moonshot chassis can accommodate up to two switch modules.

This latest release of new Moonshot cartridges brings with it the ability to mix and match boards in the same chassis. Note there are a couple of restrictions with respect to networking, however. First, you can't mix boards with different networking speeds and expect to get 10G from the higher-speed boards (namely the ARM and Xeon cartridges). When mixed with 1G cartridges, the 10G-capable cartridges will operate at 1G. Second, the 45G and 45XGc switches do not support multinode cartridges (includes Atom, Xeon, and DSP+ARM cartridges). Using multinode cartridges requires the 180G switch.

Money spent on power and cooling constitutes much of today's data center operating expenses. HP's Moonshot team has come up with a new measure of cost versus performance that zeroes in on power consumed per application unit. For a VDI implementation the measure would be watts per VDI user. For Web servers the measure is watts per user session. The new 64-bit, eight-core ARM processor cartridge, the m400, consumes a measly 43W of power at its peak, less than half the power consumed by an eight-core Xeon CPU, and trumps the Xeon in computing power per watt.

HP Moonshot Web-based management console

Figure 1. HP's Web-based management console is built on top of a REST API. Every aspect of the Moonshot system can be controlled through scripting.

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