Taking a break from yet another incredibly hectic week (don’t ask!) to finally get this committed to a database entry. Plus this will make a lot more sense now that the hype has died down somewhat. Everyone’s been absolutely obsessed with the fact that HP’s Project Moonshot is “OMG ARM IN SERVERS.” Except, it’s not. It’s really not that at all.
See, if it was just that, I wouldn’t be writing about it at all. ARM is too niche, too underpowered to actually get me interested. Make all the excuses you want for it, but you can only lie about clock so much. ARM is niche. You are not going to be running your business intelligence system on something with only 16 double precision registers. So what the heck has me so interested in Project Moonshot?
Insert your typical “Forward Looking Statements, Guesswork, Predictions, Crystal Ball” disclaimer here. But here’s what HP said themselves about Moonshot: it’s not just ARM. It’s a complete infrastructure package – systems, chassis, network and power. That’s what’s got me excited. See, it’s not about one system, one architecture, one anything. It’s about a complete modular system designed to more or less put all of the infrastructure into one box.
Let’s consider that for a moment. Where have we seen that before? Could it possibly be – why, that’s correct, Virginia. If it smells like a blade system, and it quacks like a blade system, it just might be the next generation of blade system – just not as you know it. Is efficiency good? Sure. Is power efficiency good? It can be. Is putting everything into one package that’s easier to manage and control good? You bet your butt it is!
We got to talk with HP about this in detail, and here’s what I got out of them, bearing in mind that HP can’t say too much about what they’re doing with it. One, Moonshot is not just about ARM – it’s about every hardware partner they’ve got. What they talked about was Redstone, just one part of Moonshot, using Calxeda’s EnergyCore ARM processors. What HP said on the call though was, other processors and systems can run in the Moonshot solution.
288 low power servers in 4U is great, sure. But let’s examine the Calxeda processor for a moment. Each Redstone server uses about 7W, which gives you a total density of 2,016W roughly in 4U. That’s actually not that much when compared to say, the IBM System x 3850 X5′s double 1975W (4KW!) power supplies. Let’s try something fun here. Let’s take that 2000W and divide it by, say, 40W.
2000 / 40 = 50.
That’s roughly how many Xeon LV servers Project Moonshot can hold in it’s chassis based on power constraints today. 50 physical processors fully capable of running business intelligence, HPC, and any other general workload in 4U – in theory. The physical constraints obviously, create a problem – Xeons are physically larger and require more supporting hardware. So call it 25 to account for physical space limitations; that’s still better than double the density of an HP C7000 chassis.
Now imagine this combined with say, oh, I don’t know. Maybe VDI? Right now, this is Moonshot’s weakness – the combined network interface. But that’s not exactly hard to expand to say, a dozen 10GbE ports. All with a common power system, common management interface, and all in 4U. If we say we can get 16 users per system, that’s 100 users per U. Let’s say we decide to virtualize instead, and go 8GB per VM; that’s 200 guests in 4U. Let’s get silly and say 4GB per VM for an ERP front-end; that’s 400 front ends in 4U.
The real point though, is that this is a complete modular infrastructure solution. All your power and network is in the chassis, in one place. And you’ll have more than just ARM processors available in the future, more than likely. In the meantime, HP is providing customers with access to these systems so they can find what ARM can handle. They’re not just throwing this out and saying “have at it, caveat emptor.” Before you get your hands on one of these, you will be working with HP’s engineers to figure out if your workload does work on Redstone. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t – but you will actually know in advance.
Is this the future of everything? Not very likely. The fact is that people buy Integrity, POWER, and blades for a reason. Because they need the memory, horsepower, and capacity of these systems. But that doesn’t mean Redstone doesn’t have a place, and that doesn’t mean that we aren’t likely to see Moonshot delivering more architectures in this new format.