HP Moonshot: We Have Ignition. Now Let’s See About Liftoff

After speculating about the cost and power of the new HP Moonshot miniservers, we have some answers. Let’s just say that HP has put together a pretty compelling sales pitch. Now to see whether Moonshot ends up being Apollo 11 — or Apollo 13.

As reported earlier today, Moonshot servers are small, cartridge-like miniservers that take up only about 6% of the same space that a current, full-fledged server does. These cartridges can be slotted into enclosures, known as the Moonshot 1500 chassis, which will hold 45 of the microserver units. A standard server rack can presumably hold anywhere from 10-40 enclosures, similar in look and feel to the Project Redstone development server configuration pictured below.

This miniserver configuration will use 89% less power than a standard server, according to early reports. From a cost standpoint, that’s huge. Not only are you knocking down your electric bill by nearly 90% per server, but low-power chips mean far less heat energy is created from voltage leakage and alway-on processors. Less heat means less money spent on cooling.

So What’s The Damage?

When you first hear the $61,875 starting price tag for the Moonshot 1500 chassis, it doesn’t sound cheap. Granted, there’s more hardware in there, such as 8 GB of memory plus management, networking, storage, power cords, cooling components, direct attached disk drives and network switches. But still, that’s not exactly bargain basement.

Until, that is, you read the claims from HP that estimate the cost of one of these machines is 77% less expensive than the equivalent computing power of a standard server configuration. In other words, you would theoretically have to cough up $269,021 to get the same computing oomph.

Sure, that’s a sales pitch. But it’s an attention-getting one.

Houston, We May Have a Problem

Of course, no launch goes off without a hitch, and the first one was readily apparent just off the launchpad. Despite early reports that HP Moonshot miniservers would be configurable with a variety of different processors, such as 32- and 64-bit ARM chips, the initial release is shipping with only Intel Atom 1200 chips.

That’s actually not too surprising, unfortunately. ARM-based servers still suffer from the enormous amount of forking and fragmentation in the ARM universe, and so haven’t yet grabbed the attention of the development community. HP has done the right thing in being cautious about something the market may not yet be ready for. But it would have been nice if one major vendor had started the ball rolling with a significant ARM server release.

Despite the turbulence, if the hardware and performance specs hold up to real-world use, then it’s likely that HP has a real hit here. Expect HP to tout the energy savings aspects of these machines, hard in order to attract IT managers with promises of lower electric bills and operating costs. If customers bite, HP may reach the moon after all.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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