HP's New AMD-fueled Moonshot Aimed at VDI

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HP continues to shoot for the moon with its power- and space-thrifty Moonshot servers, this week rolling out a line based on Opteron processors from AMD.

Hewlett-Packard Co. continues to shoot for the moon with its power- and space-thrifty Moonshot servers, this week rolling out a new line based on Opteron processors from AMD Corp.

At the AMD developer Conference in San Jose, Calif, the vendor unveiled the newest Moonshot servers purpose built to be the guts behind a virtual desktop infrastructure.

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The new AMD-fueled Moonshots are about 90 percent cheaper than typical rack servers and require just a fraction of the space, power and cooling of their traditional counterparts. HP and AMD officials touted the use of the new minis in a VDI environment, telling conference attendees that they can be deployed 90 percent faster with six times the performance at less than half the TCO of a traditional setup.

From a technology standpoint, there remains quite a bit to like about these little cartridge-style Moonshot servers that run on processors more often associated with smartphones and tablets than with  heavy-duty enterprise computing. The tiny modular servers represent a significant advancement in data center technology taking up 80 percent less space, sipping 89 percent less energy and costing about a 77 percent less than a tradition general purpose server.

In addition to being smaller, cheaper, and greener, the beauty of the moonshots is that they are fine-tuned for specific applications. Last spring, the vendor launched the HP ProLiant Moonshot 1500 servers powered by Intel Corp.’s Atom S1200 processor designed specifically for web hosting and cloud computing applications. A single 4.3-rack unit enclosure houses 45 Moonshot cartridges along with an integrated network switch and supporting components for around $62,000.

Future iterations of Moonshots will feature a variety of x86 and ARM-based processor from a number of partners beyond just Intel and AMD to include AppliedMicro, Calxeda and Texas Instruments. Each “software-defined” server serves a specific purpose in support of Big Data, high-performance computing, gaming, financial services, genomics, facial recognition, and video analysis among other applications, officials said.

HP executives have made frequent reference to the Moonshot servers’ ability to solve problems associated with the exponential global proliferation of servers to support ever expanding cloud, mobility, social networking and analytics applications. The space and power needed to house and run enough conventional servers to satisfy growing data center demands are approaching unsustainable levels. All of which gave the Moonshot release an air of altruism.

“With nearly 10 billion devices connected to the internet and predictions for exponential growth, we’ve reached a point where the space, power and cost demands of traditional technology are no longer sustainable,” said HP CEO Meg Whitman in a launch webcast last April. “HP Moonshot marks the beginning of a new style of IT that will change the infrastructure economics and lay the foundation for the next 20 billion devices.”

To prove the point, HP executive vice president of technology and operations, John Hinshaw said the company is using the Atom-powered Moonshots to run HP.com on roughly the amount of power needed to light a dozen 60-watt light bulbs.

That’s cool. But what HP and its partners need most right now, however, is not philanthropy or green initiatives, but a big technology win for a vendor increasingly associated with flagging sales of legacy products, miserable acquisitions, and executive leadership turmoil.

HP partners tell Channelnomics that the internal instability at HP is affecting their ability to take their products to market or coordinate activities. Simultaneously, HP’s competitors are stepping up displacement and disruption campaigns, looking to capitalize on HP’s missteps and follies.

Rival Dell Inc., for example has said expressly that it wants to overtake HP’s narrow lead in global server shipments.

How these vendors engage their channel will determine the outcome of such a tight horserace, and the Moonshot will be a significant post entry. In the short term, the hyperscale Moonshots are thus far of more interest to service providers serving up multi-tenant hosted applications than they are to the enterprise, where the benefits of massive scalability won’t be immediately evident. That will give the channel additional incentive to root for Moonshot’s success.

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