Last week, HP announced its Moonshot project, which culminated with an unveiling of new hardware devices: A 4.3U chassis and the first Moonshot Server.
For more information about Moonshot hardware, read David Floyer’s article, HP Introduces New Blade Architecture with Emphasis on Low Power Modules.
With Moonshot, customers get up to 45 discrete servers packed into just 4.3U of space. The chassis provides to all 45 servers all necessary power, cooling and external connectivity that is required. Of course, redundancy is built into the chassis, but this is an unprecedented level of density at a reasonable price: Pricing begins at $61,875 for the enclosure, 45 HP ProLiant Moonshot servers and an integrated switch.
If you’re thinking that this might be a great way to buy a bunch of servers for your enterprise, be aware that you’re not currently the target market for this product, nor is it generally going to be a fit for most mainstream businesses. At present, the first server cartridge (yes, we’re back to using cartridges!), has just a single Atom processor and tops out at 8 GB of RAM and a single drive. Further, the cartridge supports only a few Linux variants. Given these limitations, Moonshot is not suitable for most mainstream workloads, let alone being useful in virtualization scenarios, which comprise the majority to new workloads today. Of course, if someone like Microsoft were to adapt Hyper-V to such environments, enabling single workloads to cross hardware boundaries and harness hyperscale, big changes could be down the line.
At present, Moonshot is targeted at organizations that require massive scale-out capabilities, such as dedicated hosting companies, social media companies, mobility, high-end analytics, and the like. In these scenarios, being able to cram hundreds of low power small servers into a single rack makes good economic sense, even if the individual systems aren’t that powerful. While it may be theoretically possible to use Moonshot servers as hypervisor hosts, the virtual machine density that could be achieved with a single Atom processor and 8 GB of RAM would be so low that the cost for the hypervisor and management tools would drive per-VM costs to unacceptable levels.
HP is actively working with partners to create additional server cartridges that go beyond what was made available at launch. In addition to the dual core Intel Centerton Atom that is currently available, HP is expected to ship denser Atom-based Moonshot servers by the end of the year. In addition, HP indicated that the market will see server cartridges with ARM and AMD options in the future. Plans are in the works for purpose-built cartridges. However, even as more Moonshot servers hit the market, their small size effectively precludes them from hitting the specifications that are seen with their bigger and more power blade, rack, and tower brethren, at least for the foreseeable future.
Action Item: My advice to mainstream CIOs is this: Don’t let Moonshot derail any of your existing data center plans, unless you need to deploy some kind of truly massive hyperscale application. Your existing rack and blade environment is doing exactly what you need it to do. If there is a desire to move in a different direction to support mainstream workloads, consider some of the hyper-converged options that are available on the market today. As Moonshot develops, new opportunities may arise, but for now, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and watch what develops.