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HP ditches ARM for Intel in Project Moonshot

HP ditches ARM for Intel in Project Moonshot

Intel's Atom chips will now be at the heart of the first commercial product to appear from HP's Project Moonshot, in place of the originally-planned ARM processors.

Intel has managed to convince server giant HP to eschew ARM-based chips in favour of its own Atom processors as part of the low-power Project Moonshot effort.

Originally announced back in November 2011, Project Moonshot is HP's attempt to create low-power high-density server systems packing as many as 2800 server blades into a single rack. The company partnered with ARM, AMD, Calxeda, Canonical and Red Hat on the project - a list of companies in which Intel, you may note, does not appear.

The original plan was to create servers based around Calxeda's EnergyCore dual-core chips, which feature a class-leading thermal design profile (TDP) of just 1.5 watts. Using these low-power chips, HP claimed it could create servers drawing 89 per cent less energy and taking up just six per cent of the space of a traditional server installation. That equates to massive improvements in efficiency for high-volume datacentres and a dramatic saving in power and heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) costs for everyone else.

It also marked ARM's first major foray into the world of the server since the company departed the desktop market following the industry's switch away from ARM-based systems like the RiscPC and towards IBM-compatible x86 devices. For ARM, HP's decision to use its instruction set in Project Moonshot was a major validation and a win which could be used to great effect in convincing other high-density server makers to investigate ARM-based solutions.

That's a situation which Intel, clearly, has found untenable - and it has convinced HP that Atom is the way to go.

According to HP's latest announcement, the initial production servers to come out of Project Moonshot - codenamed Gemini - will be based around Intel Centerton Atom chips, rather than Calxeda's EnergyCore products. Intel, naturally, is saying that HP's made the right choice. 'The unprecedented value of the Intel Atom processor codenamed Centerton — with features like 64-bit support, ECC and an established software x86 ecosystem — will offer customers the increased flexibility and drastically reduced total cost of ownership required to compete in the fast-growing hyperscale computing space,' Intel's Jason Waxman, general manager of cloud infrastructure at the chip giant, claimed of HP's move.

HP's decision to support Intel despite the latter company's refusal to become an official partner in Project Moonshot is no real surprise: back in November HP announced that the second-generation Moonshot servers, codenamed Redstone, would include an Atom option - but it was always planning on using ARM chips for its first-generation Gemini product.

HP isn't giving up on ARM in the datacentre altogether, though: the company has confirmed that, while Gemini will launch later in the year using Atom chips, processors from other, unnamed vendors will be produced for use with the blade infrastructure. The company did not, however, provide a timescale for their release.

22 Comments

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Zinfandel 20th June 2012, 11:39 Quote
Intel back to their old tricks then?
Harlequin 20th June 2012, 11:40 Quote
would very much seem so wouldnt it ^^
MrJay 20th June 2012, 11:44 Quote
Some new revision of Atom?

The current one is shite compared to ARM's offerings.
faugusztin 20th June 2012, 12:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrJay
The current one is shite compared to ARM's offerings.

Explain. AFAIK Atom in XOLO X900/Orange San Diego is a pretty good one. And a X86 option is always preferable to ARM in server enviroment.
Harlequin 20th June 2012, 12:31 Quote
depends on the scale of servers you want - ultra high end dont use X86.....
faugusztin 20th June 2012, 12:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harlequin
depends on the scale of servers you want - ultra high end dont use X86.....

"low-power high-density server systems packing as many as 2800 server blades into a single rack."

In other words - an ideal hardware for a hosting company to sell as dedicated server(s). Not really the "ultra highend".
Flibblebot 20th June 2012, 13:29 Quote
Maybe not, but since such clients are more than likely going to be running Linux variants, x86 or not isn't going to be as much of an issue than if it were a Windows-based datacentre.
schmidtbag 20th June 2012, 14:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrJay
The current one is shite compared to ARM's offerings.

Explain. AFAIK Atom in XOLO X900/Orange San Diego is a pretty good one. And a X86 option is always preferable to ARM in server enviroment.

I think I'd have to agree with MrJay. I'm not aware of the exact Atom model you're referring to and I'm sure it may perform better than the Calxeda but clearly for something with wattage that low, HP clearly didn't care about the extra performance of Atom. That assumes Atom has a better performance-per-watt, which I doubt.

The only reason why x86 is preferred in server environments is just because it's a little more compatible. People with serious servers tend to prefer PPC, SPARC, or even GPUs. ARM is perfectly capable as a cluster server platform, and linux is currently lightyears ahead (whether you want to look at that in either time or metaphorical distance) of pretty much any OS that is ARM compatible.
faugusztin 20th June 2012, 15:47 Quote
@schmidtbag: if we talk about phones (the only place where ARM and x86 clashes heavily) and compared to dual cores, Atom Z2460 is a better option (keep in mind it is a single core CPU) :
http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones

That power consumption includes the graphics core, communications etc.

And now move up to Centerton, which is a dualcore Atom with 6W power consumption.... ARM is good for phones, but i don't see them as viable competitors for now.
schmidtbag 20th June 2012, 16:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
@schmidtbag: if we talk about phones (the only place where ARM and x86 clashes heavily) and compared to dual cores, Atom Z2460 is a better option (keep in mind it is a single core CPU) :
http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones

That power consumption includes the graphics core, communications etc.

And now move up to Centerton, which is a Atom with 6W power consumption.... ARM is good for phones, but i don't see them as viable competitors for now.

That Atom is actually pretty impressive, seems like the first decent low-wattage CPU intel has made since the original atom (which was good for its time). I'm glad intel has finally taken low-wattage platforms seriously, because they always seemed to put them at lowest priority.

Although android is linux based, the changes done to android aren't always moved to linux, and the changes done to linux aren't always moved to android. I think its linux kernel 3.2 or maybe 3.3 where ARM has been getting from 25%-60%+ faster thanks to development from Canonical. I'm not terribly familiar with how Android works but last time I checked, it tends to use very outdated kernels, and if it hasn't received any of the 3.2 or 3.3 kernel updates, then that Atom CPU could actually be nearly head to head competing with those ARM chips. At that point the only difference would be licensing and price, in which ARM would likely win.

I noticed ARM seems to be a better competitor when it comes to devices that idle a lot and when you have a multi-core processor.
faugusztin 20th June 2012, 16:25 Quote
3.0.8 is the kernel version in current Galaxy Nexus. But don't forget that Z2460 is a cut down single core CPU. The 6W TDP Atoms HP will use are dual cores, which means they will be the competitors to quad core Cortex A9 if they are cut down in same way (which i doubt, considering they got VT-x, 64-bit etc) - but the ARM CPU from Calxeda was only dual core Cortex A8.

Plus HP didn't threw out the ARM solution, they just probably want to release the product ASAP, while the ARM solution is only on paper for now. According to what was written about these servers, later you can easily have ARM, Intel, AMD mixed according to your needs. The fact that Intel Atom is the first version talks more about availability than preference.
tad2008 20th June 2012, 16:39 Quote
I don't doubt that the ARM version would likely have been the better hardware choice.

However, what I think won the argument for Intel simply was the readily available existing software that has already been tried, tested and proven on x86 platforms.
jeanlyon 21st June 2012, 03:46 Quote
In other words - an ideal hardware for a hosting company to sell as dedicated server(s). Not really the "ultra highend".
iwod 21st June 2012, 03:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
@schmidtbag: if we talk about phones (the only place where ARM and x86 clashes heavily) and compared to dual cores, Atom Z2460 is a better option (keep in mind it is a single core CPU) :
http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones

That power consumption includes the graphics core, communications etc.

And now move up to Centerton, which is a Atom with 6W power consumption.... ARM is good for phones, but i don't see them as viable competitors for now.

That Atom is actually pretty impressive, seems like the first decent low-wattage CPU intel has made since the original atom (which was good for its time). I'm glad intel has finally taken low-wattage platforms seriously, because they always seemed to put them at lowest priority.

Although android is linux based, the changes done to android aren't always moved to linux, and the changes done to linux aren't always moved to android. I think its linux kernel 3.2 or maybe 3.3 where ARM has been getting from 25%-60%+ faster thanks to development from Canonical. I'm not terribly familiar with how Android works but last time I checked, it tends to use very outdated kernels, and if it hasn't received any of the 3.2 or 3.3 kernel updates, then that Atom CPU could actually be nearly head to head competing with those ARM chips. At that point the only difference would be licensing and price, in which ARM would likely win.

I noticed ARM seems to be a better competitor when it comes to devices that idle a lot and when you have a multi-core processor.

Wow, that means Android are using Old Kernel without the optimization from newest development? So the test from Intel Atom vs ARM wasn't really up to date?
faugusztin 21st June 2012, 07:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by iwod
Wow, that means Android are using Old Kernel without the optimization from newest development? So the test from Intel Atom vs ARM wasn't really up to date?

Android 4.0 uses 3.0.8 kernel. Test was "up to date" of current Android status. By the way, on other side Atom was tested on 2.3, and that means even older kernel; it should get some boost by movin to Android 4.0 as well.
Gareth Halfacree 21st June 2012, 08:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeanlyon
In other words - an ideal hardware for a hosting company to sell as dedicated server(s). Not really the "ultra highend".
That's pretty much the exact opposite to what HP's Project Moonshot is targeting. The move to microservers is designed to power cloud computing, not resellers shovelling dedicated servers - remember that an individual Atom or ARM server blade will be significantly less powerful than something running on a full-fat server chip, and thus not very tempting to people looking for a dedicated server.

Moonshot, and other microserver/high-density server projects, aims squarely at cloud computing. Take Google Docs, for example. To make a page appear in Google Docs for a user to edit takes very little CPU resources; stick it on a Xeon and you're using an ICBM to crack a nut. Stick it on a microserver and you've got a much more efficient system - which means a system that is cheaper to run.

The trouble with migrating something like Google Docs to a low-power ARM or Atom server is in scaling: to make one page appear in Google Docs takes very few resources, but to make one million pages appear nigh-simultaneously is a different matter. The extra power of the Xeon chip helps, but it's still inefficient - especially as, when you get down to a low enough level, the processor can only execute a certain number of instructions at the same time. Let's assume a six-core Xeon with Hyperthreading - and further assume that Hyperthreading is actually suitable for this particular instruction, which it may not be: that's an absolute maximum of twelve simultaneous threads per chip. Four Xeons per 3U server, 13 servers per 42U rack (leaving 3U for switches) means 624 simultaneous threads and a whopping 4,680W TDP. That's 4.7KW you need to provide in power, and 4.7KW you need to cool.

Looking at Project Moonshot - and taking the Calxeda ARM chip's figure of 1.5W TDP for a dual-core chip - we're talking 2,800 'servers' per 42U rack, each with two processing cores, but no equivalent to Hyperthreading. Result: 4,200W TDP to power 5,600 simultaneous threads.

So, looking at cost per thread - and ignoring 'performance per watt' as we're making the (very big, and most likely fairly incorrect) assumption that loading a Google Docs page is simple enough that either chip can complete it in microseconds - you're talking 0.75W TDP per thread for a Project Moonshot server, compared to 7.5W TDP per thread for a traditional Xeon server. That means you can either support ten times the users (bandwidth allowing) for the same running costs, or reduce your costs to one-tenth while supporting the same number of users - or a combination, such as increasing your user base five-fold while still reducing costs.
Snips 21st June 2012, 10:11 Quote
WOW, get in there Intel. Clearly HP, with it's years of expertise of building such systems would know the true benefits of one product to another. Why is this Intel's fault that HP have gone with them?

You can all take those tinfoil hats of now, they really aren't watching anymore.
faugusztin 21st June 2012, 10:17 Quote
There will be ARM modules. So will be there AMD too. It is simply about current availability. They want to release it at the end of the year, and it comes simply down to "can XY supply us enough chips?". Intel probably can, Calxeda probably can't, or not at high enough volume.
ssj12 22nd June 2012, 03:48 Quote
HP isnt bankrupt yet... how unfortunate...
dyzophoria 23rd June 2012, 17:28 Quote
Im guessing HP was just worried if ARM support on the server market would really take off, you can say all you want about there is linux on ARM, but the last time I heard the major linux distros (redhat, centos), still have them on the "coming soon" time table, unless you want system administrators to compile their own kernels which would defeat the current dogma of "rapid deployment of anything in the enterprise" I'd be skeptical as wel..l added that a majority of enterprises still run Windows as their major server backend OS. you'd be really freaking worried about releasing a product that you know, you feel will have a questionable future, especially from a company that had major issues with its internal structure :p
Petrol head 24th June 2012, 01:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
WOW, get in there Intel. Clearly HP, with it's years of expertise of building such systems would know the true benefits of one product to another. Why is this Intel's fault that HP have gone with them?

You can all take those tinfoil hats of now, they really aren't watching anymore.

Intel are simply trying to dip their finger in as many pies as possible. I am sure HP have their reasons though.

Universal greeting to you to by the way (oops showing my age again)
AmEv 24th June 2012, 02:16 Quote
Yep, guys, my Thrive with Android 3.2 uses the 2.6 kernel.
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