HP ditches ARM for Intel in Project Moonshot

June 20, 2012 | 11:13

Tags: #cloud-server #datacentre #data-centre #project-moonshot #rack #server #x86

Companies: #arm #hewlett-packard #hp #intel

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.
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