Project Moonshot: Maximum Power in Minimum Space
One of the keys to electronic advancement is reducing the size of components – stuffing more utility into even smaller packages. This is true whether you’re talking about TVs, radios, GPS, phones, and of course computers, in all their various forms – tablets, notebooks, PCs and data center servers, storage, and networking.
The ability to expand and multiply functionality is the goal. HP’s Project Moonshot sets the bar higher than ever by stuffing thousands of processors in a rack and multiplying the compute power, while constraining the space and energy requirements normally associated with large-scale data processing.
Why is Project Moonshot like a Transistor?
Months ago I DVR’d a TV documentary. The title was something like “The Birth of Silicon Valley.” As a former HP employee, and after just last year visiting the Garage in Palo Alto, I figured that HP would have a prominent role in the show. Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett started HP in 1939.
However, the show focused on a much later invention – the development of the transistor in the 1950s. That wonderful little device that replaced huge vacuum tubes was leveraged byWilliam Shockley, Sherman Fairchild, Bob Noyce, and the others that eventually started Intel. Computers in those days were huge room-sized machines, and needed mucho power and cooling to match. Vacuum tubes produced and manipulated the 1’s and 0’s.
You could get dozens of transistors in the space of one power-hungry, heat-producing vacuum tube. Then the industry took the next step - putting hundreds of transistors on one integrated circuit, and then eventually stuffed many ICs into one Microprocessor. You see the pattern.
Nowadays, the trick is to populate many servers into a more compact space. HPC (High Performance Computing) aka Scalable Computing has now taken another leap forward with HP’s Project Moonshot initiative. The exponential growth of data that is processed, transferred, and stored is being driven in part by social media and other cloud-based applications that allow data to be produced and shared like never before.
Another driving factor is that more data usually translates into a greater energy need. Green initiatives and cost-considerations are demanding less watts per compute power than legacy technology can provide. Existing technology cannot scale out fast and efficiently enough. Along with that, the physical space required leads to all kinds of headaches and cost.
What is different about Project Moonshot?
Project Moonshot data center computers utilize the same low-energy processors that are used in Smartphones. In about 1/10th the size of traditional x86 processors they offer the same level of computing power. This extreme low-energy package also consumes 90% less power.
Project Moonshot servers will be server agnostic, and will first ship with Intel Atom Centerton processors, with future versions also using The Calxeda ARM processor and the Intel Avoton Atom. These low-energy processors are one facet, but the other key ingredient is the federated architecture that allows resources to be shared between processors. This helps to drastically reduce complexity and management overhead. Cost is also contained, even as the servers scale out.
Components like the processor, storage, chipset, power, management, and network interface are not shared resources in the typical x86-based server. In Project Moonshot, components above the processor level are shared at the chassis level. For example, network fabric, Integrated Lights Out management, and RAID controllers are all integrated and managed in a federated chassis.
To find out more about Project Moonshot, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.