Moonshot -- HP's New Server Design

By CIOReview | Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FREMONT, CA: Hewlett-Packard has introduced its new range of servers— Moonshot line, which has high density and low power in a space-saving "cartridge-based" chassis.

The HP Moonshot System is a huge leap in infrastructure design that addresses the speed, scale, and specialization needed for a "New Style of IT." HP Moonshot web servers are designed for specific workloads to deliver optimum performance. These low power servers share management, power, cooling, networking, and storage. This architecture is a key to achieving 8x efficiency, and enabling 3x faster innovation cycle.  Moonshot falls into the general category of hyperscale computing. It is designed for data center and Big Data environments where the ability to quickly add large numbers of servers are important.

Moonshot is ‘a server farm in a box’ where one gets 45 server cartridges, a 4.3U chassis power supplies management unit, a crossbar internal switch, an uplink 10Gigabit Ethernet controller, power cords, and rack mounts for about $62000. HP has x64 dual-core Intel Atom CPUs and supports linux distributions like Red Hat, CentOS, Fedora, and Ubuntu,reports Tom Henderson of Network World.

When it comes to density, eight Moonshot chassis fit into a 42U rack for a total of 360 discrete server cartridges and rack would consume only 9,600 watts. As the cartridges aren't shielded, airflow through the chassis lacks the need for channels and barriers to route airflow. These cartridges use comparatively less power, and the overall chassis, including switches and infrastructure use less than 1,200W in aggregate power consumption.

Configuration caveats

HP offers "Factory Direct" pre-installation and configuration options. Though the Initial configuration which comes through a connection to a serial port, did not work out well, the main idea is to use the serial jack to initialize user passwords and provision the switch with IP address options so that the chassis can talk to the world from the switch.

Tests: Processing Power

 HP tested the Atom processor used in the cartridges comparing the moonshot cartridge with other servers, desktop units and at last used a Linux physical drive to ascertain disk speed using LMBench3 for Linux boxes. Equal memory and settings were used across systems and used the Phoronix test suite to gauge cartridge speed and compare it to several types of dual-core systems to gauge speed.


Moonshot is thus a completely different server designed to compete with the custom infrastructure being used by some of the major websites and Content Delivery Networks (CDN). HP aptly calls Moonshot, "a software-defined server." It is thus both an industrial controller and a small server farm-in-a-box.