ARM enters mainstream datacentre with HP’s ProLiant Moonshot servers

ARM chips have entered mainstream enterprise datacentre with HP's production-ready ARM-powered Moonshot servers

Low-powered ARM-based products have entered the mainstream enterprise datacentre with server maker HP launching two production-ready ARM-powered servers in its ProLiant Moonshot portfolio.

The first is Moonshot 64-bit server, HP ProLiant m400, based on the AppliedMicro X-Gene SoC (system on a chip) with Linux (Ubuntu) operating system. It is designed to deliver two times the density and four times more web-serving compute and 30% reduction in total cost of ownership compared to Intel’s Xeon-based servers.

The second ARM-based server from HP is the m800 Moonshot server designed for real-time data processing of high volume, complex data, such as fraud detection and purchase pattern analysis. The 32-bit ARM server has Texas Instrument KeyStone-based SOC. It features ARM’s A15 cores and integrated Rapid I/O (input/output) to deliver three times more bandwidth and 90% low latency data throughput.

“ARM has become ready for enterprise datacentres,” said Olivier Frank, HP Moonshot director for Europe. “Customers have been asking HP for a low-power server option and so we have expanded our Moonshot portfolio with ARM-based servers.”

For specific workloads, the ARM architecture optimises a customer’s most critical compute requirement – balanced memory at a lower total cost of ownership.

The new HP Moonshot ARM-based systems will deliver hyperscale, datacentre environments to help customers improve application performance, drive business innovation and deliver breakthrough datacentre economics, according to the server maker.

Frank said the company is investing in ARM technologies for designing production-ready datacentre offerings because it hopes that, in two to three years, ARM will hold between 20 to 30% of the server industry based on industry analyst forecasts.

“It is important to provide a choice so there is no monopolistic market,” he said. “We cannot ignore the growth of ARM-based, end-point devices, which has direct consequences on the datacentre side. ARM architecture is valuable in terms of density and power-efficiency.”

HP’s ARM architecture-based Moonshot servers come just days after the company's server rival Dell said it too is considering working with the Cambridge-based energy-efficient chipmaker. Michael Dell, founder of Dell, told delegates at its Solutions Summit earlier this month that the company may work with Cambridge-based microprocessor firm ARM for its mainstream servers.

Dell said: “If ARM works, really works, and costs less, we will use ARM. As it moves to 64-bit architecture, it becomes more interesting.”

At the Open Compute Summit in San Jose, California, ARM launched a baseline standard for 64-bit servers, which it hoped will help it encroach on Intel’s traditional territory, powering commodity hardware in the datacentre.

The standard also has the backing of the Linaro Enterprise Group, a consortium of companies supporting the development of open-source software for the ARM architecture, including Facebook and Samsung. 

HP, which has a long-standing partnership with high-power, high-throughput x86 provider Intel, has previously released both Intel and AMD-based Moonshot servers. Intel’s low-power offering laptop chip Atom has been used to power the HP low-powered Moonshot server. It is an x86-compatible design, which means it should be capable of running 32-bit server software.  

But chipmaker ARM’s work with AMD to deliver SoC processors designed for a new generation of servers and to tackle the biggest problem facing today's datacentres – power and cooling – is making ARM a viable alternative to Intel chips. 

Frank said that, as more and more end-point devices such as smartphones and tablets are powered by ARM, it is important to have back-end server hardware based on similar energy-efficient system-on-a-chip SoC technology for maximum efficiencies.

By leveraging energy-efficient system-on-a-chip SoC technology, a dense, converged form-factor and highly flexible fabrics, HP Moonshot can provide high-speed connectivity between cartridges, as well as balanced computing with maximum throughput and memory to improve performance and efficiency, said Frank. 

“ARM technologies will change the dynamics of how enterprises build IT solutions to quickly address customer challenges,” said Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager, Servers and Networking, HP. 

HP is targeting specific workloads such as web caching and has been beta-testing the low-powered Moonshot servers with several users including PayPal and ARM itself. 

“We are working with our partner ARM as our end-user testing the new Moonshot servers for its manageability, scalability and portability,” said Frank

PayPal is another customer using the HP ProLiant m800 in its Systems Intelligence project. “Paypal does real-time data analytics, high-performance computing and web caching – all apt use cases for low-powered servers, Frank said. 

“The HP ProLiant m800’s combination of ARM and Multicore Digital Signal Processors [DSP] with high-speed, low-latency networking and tiered memory management creates a very energy-efficient, extremely capable parallel processing platform with a familiar Linux interface,” said Ryan Quick, principal architect, Advanced Technology Group, PayPal.  

“It’s a truly new approach to bringing scale-out design 'inside the box', and breaks barriers between high performance computing and enterprise technology.”

The extension of Moonshot portfolio with ARM architecture addresses IT demands with a vast pool of processing resources that can be located anywhere, scaled to any workload and available at any time, according to HP.

As power usage of datacentre products is increasingly becoming a priority for enterprises, micro-servers could become more than a device to fill the gap between PCs and servers, experts said.

“Intel shouldn’t be complacent because competitive architecture is very credible and giants such as Google will experiment with the alternative architectures powered by ARM,” according to Gartner analyst Errol Rasit.  

The new Moonshot servers are available immediately and pricing will vary based on model and customer configurations.

HP is also extending the reach of the growing ARM ecosystem.  The HP ProLiant Moonshot ARM-64 Developer Program, part of the HP AllianceOne program, will enable developers to test and port code stacks and solutions to the ARM architecture. Through this programme, developers can design fully-featured software on an ARM 64-bit system by remotely accessing the Moonshot discovery lab.  

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