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HP's Project Moonshot to Feature Intel Centerton in Gemini Servers

Project Moonshot introduces Gemini servers with the Intel Centerton processor, but it will be a while before enterprises see benefits.

Hewlett-Packard announced Tuesday its next phase for Project Moonshot, opting to lead with server cartridges featuring the Intel Atom Processor code-named "Centerton" for its initial production. However, it will be a while before enterprises will be able to take advantage of the extreme low-energy servers, dubbed "Gemini."

Launched last November, Project Moonshot is designed to help customers significantly reduce server complexity, energy use and cost by reinventing the traditional approach to hyperscale computing. It leverages workload-optimized, extreme low-energy "server cartridges" in a unique enclosure that pools resources across thousands of servers.

Project Moonshot is a product of HP Labs, where researchers started looking for ways to leverage the features of CPUs found in notebooks and mobile devices for low-power servers, says Paul Santeler, VP and general manager of the hyperscale business unit at HP. HP Labs looked at a lot of the workloads being done in these new emerging marketplaces and emerging applications such as Web and analytics.

"One of the things they found was that the CPUs were not being as stressed to the same degree in those applications," he says. Because these applications were not CPU-bound, it was possible to use lower-energy CPUs. The idea with the Gemini server is to bring together those processor cores and put them together in a federated architecture in higher densities.

"This is a paradigm shift," says Santeler.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, says it will take time for Project Moonshot to have an impact on businesses and for Gemini to find its way into enterprises, but he agrees that the technology is revolutionary. "This truly is bleeding-edge technology," he says, but it won't be mainstream until the latter half of the decade.

Enderle says the technology is ideal for anything that's multithreaded or for an environment where performance requirements change rapidly from moment to moment. "This is all forward-looking, and not ideal for legacy systems."

John Abbott, chief analyst at 451 Research, says initial deployments of low-energy servers have mostly been used for serving webpages or similar applications, "but we expect the range of workloads to broaden as the technology matures. Enterprises working with application stacks incorporating memcached and Hadoop may be interested in trying out this kind of platform." The benefits, he says, are lower costs, greater density and efficiency, and simplification through what he calls "physicalization." In other words, there's no need to virtualize "wimpy" nodes.

In general, energy efficiency is something that enterprises are striving for, says Ryan Brock, VP, worldwide SMB cloud and channels at AMI Partners. "There's a big push toward lower-power systems and components. Lower energy equals lower cost," he explains. "That's important when it comes time to scale. Power consumption becomes a huge issue."

Project Moonshot is one of three initiatives introduced by HP last November as part of the company's strategy to re-envision how business computing is conducted. Project Voyager is focused on how to increase the amount of intelligence in enterprise systems, while Project Odyssey addresses the high end by enabling mission-critical workloads to run on both Itanium-based Integrity servers and Xeon-based ProLiant systems in the same enclosure.

The Gemini server system incorporating Centerton-based compute cartridges is currently in use in HP's Discovery Lab in Houston and will soon be available for customer testing. It's expected to begin shipping in early production to customers by year's end.

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