It has been interesting watching the data center focus on becoming a world of small compute platforms using shared back end hardware, such as fans and power supplies. For me, this started with the introduction of HP’s C7000 chassis many years back. My initial thoughts back then were around heat, as stacking that much compute into a small space was a new issue to solve in traditional data center cooling design. Today, I run into similar issues – often times a rack must be kept half empty (or more) because the data center is not properly equipped with enough chillers or the “butcher curtains” to channel an efficient hot / cold aisle design.
HP’s Moonshot intrigues me because of the amount of compute density they are offering at such a low heating point. Energy consumption and heat dissipation often walk step for step, and the ProLiant Moonshot System boasts some serious energy consumption savings over traditional servers: 89% less to be specific. I would imagine that the proof will ultimately be in the pudding on this one, but even if it’s 50% less, that is still a worthy improvement. Being the technical geek that I am, I thought it best to dig deep into the hardware design and specifications to see what makes this thing tick.
Moonshot 1500 Chassis
The oddly sized 4.3U Moonshot 1500 chassis is essentially a top loading blade enclosure with slots for 45 ProLiant Moonshot Servers to live. Fortunately, you can purchase an optional .66U spacer blank for the rack unit slot adjacent to the chassis as an optional kit – this both helps airflow and hides any ugly rack unit gaps. Fully populated, the chassis comes in right at 180 lbs, which is pretty light when compared to a fully populated HP C7000 or Cisco UCS 5108. The chassis features 5 rear mounted fans and 4 rear mounted power supplies shared among all of the internal components.
The Moonshot 1500 chassis also has two slots for networking modules – in this case, a Moonshot 45G Switch Module kit is paired with a Moonshot 6SFP Uplink Module kit – buy two of each if you want full redundancy. As you can imagine by the naming scheme, the 45G offers 45x 1 GbE downlink ports to the individual ProLiant Moonshot Servers, while the 6SFP uplink gives you 6x 10 GbE upstream. The uplinks are accessible from the rear of the chassis. Fully populated with network connections, this puts the chassis at an unusual advantage in that it has no over commitment. Obviously this situation may change if the upstream network is already over committed or if fewer switch module ports are utilized.
ProLiant Moonshot Servers
Each Moonshot Server reminds me of an older daughter card design, but with a hard drive strapped on for a joy ride. Configuration is rather simple, since there are few options. Each server comes standard with an Intel Atom processor S1260 clocked at 2.0 Ghz, 8 GB of ECC UDIMM (Unbuffered) RAM, and a pair of Broadcom 5720 1GbE connections. You can then choose if you want a SATA drive in either a 1 TB or 500 GB size. All servers purchased for a single chassis must be of the exact same configuration. I would imagine that the specs for these servers will vary more as time progresses and more support is added for a mix of other hardware.
According to the official HP Moonshot System Data sheet, there are three operating systems supported today: Canonical Unbuntu 12.04, RHEL 6.4, and SUSE 11 SP2. It makes sense to exclude something like vSphere from the list, as servers this small would definitely go bananas on a socket-based licensing model with such a small amount of memory. I also really don’t think virtualization is the target focus of this product – more for highly parallel, multi-threaded applications that need to operate at a massive scale but with reduced power and heat. I definitely recommend reading Howard Mark’s post over at Network Computing as he always seems to have a very solid perspective.
It’s always good to see something new emerge from a tech giant, and I’ve been a long time HP enthusiast as both a customer and writer. Monolithic, large form factor servers have continued to fall into a smaller part of IT budgets, especially in the world of service providers and large scale data center shops. Even enterprise shops are embracing blade technologies and converged / hyperconverged infrastructure to reduce cost and increase simplicity. It will be interesting to see how the Moonshot product performs in the marketplace, and I look forward to getting my hands on one of these systems some day for a proper introduction. 🙂