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These boxes are never interesting to look at, this is the HP Moonshot Gemini 1500
These boxes are never interesting to look at, this is the HP Moonshot Gemini 1500

Hewlett-Packard calls it new range of servers Project Moonshot. That fits because the task in front of HP is as challenging as when America decided to put a man on the moon in the 1960s.

HP’s first Moonshot server uses Intel Atom processors. This means customers can build energy-efficient datacentres costing ess than existing hardware.

Atom means Moonshot servers are tiny. You need one eighth the space of traditional servers and almost one tenth of the energy. The price per processor is about a quarter the cost of earlier servers. And HP says Moonshot is less complex.

HP’s problem is that the key customers who would once have bought this kind of kit now build their own servers using no-name suppliers and commodity components. The big cloud suppliers and companies like Google or Facebook also roll their own server hardware. No-one at the top end of the market cares any more about the logo on server boxes.

Smaller server customers – and in this context that still means big by New Zealand standards – are busy moving to the cloud. Fewer companies run in-house data centres. And their cloud suppliers are building no-brand servers.

Which leaves HP with the enterprise computing market. They’re not in the hardware development business and are happy to buy kit from the likes HP along with the services and support to make it all work.

That “the likes of HP” thing is interesting. HP is up against Dell and IBM, perhaps Oracle to a lesser degree. Dell has its own internal problems, IBM focuses on services not hardware. Oracle is still essentially a software company that uses own-brand hardware strategically.

It appears HP is slowly turning around. Moonshot is part of that. It is brave and innovative.  HP has not shied away from the risk of cannibalising its existing sales. While Moonshot could be a reboot of the systems market, it could also be the old guard’s last hurrah.

One thought on “HP Moonshot

  1. Totally disagree.

    Cloud providers, and all but the smallest of end users, have one fear: downtime. Any provider (smaller than Google/Amazon/Facebook et al) or business rolling their own is not a provider but a backyard outfit – mentally if not literally.

    Parts availability and serviceability are paramount. A key part of serviceability is consistency of components. If I have a SAS card failure I want a replacement to work as soon as that server or blade has power reapplied. I can’t afford to find that the cards I bought nine months ago are no longer available, or a new version has firmware incompatible with my existing drivers. I need a box to sit in the corner earning money and a vendor who is able to guarantee that box will keep working until the end of its economic life, which may be five or eight years.

    That is why people continue to buy HP and IBM et al. You’re not paying for the hardware – you’re paying for the back end that goes with it. If you buy strictly on up-front cost you only have yourself to blame.

    Standalone servers (which is what I think you may have been getting at with roll-your-own) are going the way of the dodo in a midrange or enterprise environment except for an ever smaller subset of secure or specialist tasks.

    Virtualisation is almost universal in data centres and if you are a provider it makes far greater economic sense to have 20,000 horsepower total and slice’n’dice it according to customer needs in a secure multi-tenant environment, than providing per-customer servers sized according to their theoretical peak load.

    The purpose of the HP Moonshot is consolidation. Individual servers were replaced with blade servers and external storage. This is the latest iteration of blades. One rack of Moonshot is the equivalent of eight racks of older servers, using a ninth of the power and chucking out a ninth of the BTUs. While the initial capex is higher, the reduced energy consumption and cooling requirements mean TCO is considerably less. And seven less racks means you have seven more rack spaces to sell to customers at $$$ per month. Footprint in data centres is like gold.

    I may sound like an HP fanboi, but far from it. I’m a storage specialist. Other vendors will soon be offering their own equivalents. We’re just seeing the continued evolution of reduced size, energy consumption, and bang for buck.

    It’s not going away.

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