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HP takes giant leap in server design

Tom Henderson | Feb. 11, 2014
Moonshot hyperscale server brings high density and low power consumption to the data center.

Configuration caveats
The unit arrives, unless optional configuration has been purchased, totally unconfigured, and is not provisioned in conventional ways initially. After installation, which can be very arduous for those not well versed in HP servers and networks, subsequent provisioning and re-provisioning is highly automated and can be fast. The docs very clearly needed work.

Because of its internal switching architecture and reliance on Linux, you'll need a hybrid network and systems engineer to make it work. We changed hats frequently as we ran Moonshot through its paces.

HP offers "Factory Direct" pre-installation and configuration options. We recommend going Factory Direct with pre-installed options for the faint of heart, as our installation wasn't fun.

Initial configuration comes through a connection to a serial port, which we found painful for many reasons. You can use a micro-SD card to serve as configuration storage, as there's one built into the management module on the rear of the Moonshot chassis.  

We connected to the chassis using a notebook with a USB-Serial adapter and a terminal program to one of two serial ports on the rear of the chassis. One serial port is used for HP's iLO management, and the other is for the Broadcom switch that's used to connect Moonshot to the rest of the world. HP doesn't have an exact formula for what kind of serial connection is needed. Although it's believed that a standard 9pin D-connect ought to work; two of them failed before HP sent one that finally worked.

The firmware seems primitive. We made it work, but used more guessing than we like. There are marks on the wall at the lab from throwing things in frustration. The summary of the procedure is to use the serial jack to initialize user passwords, provision the switch with IP address options so that the chassis can talk to the world from the switch. The serial cable, from that point onwards, is recyclable. The chassis, for all its other security, uses guessable passwords initially, and in no way vets the secure nature of subsequent passwords. They must be changed.

Once the switch talks and the chassis is alive, Moonshot is provisioned through setting up IP address schemes to match PxE requests that'll be made by the cartridges. Once that's done, the cartridges can be provisioned via PxE to become server instances. Each server, in turn, has two cores and four threads to use for apps, be those native, or inside SELinux, Ubuntu's new containerizing scheme, or other partitioning methods for scale out and compression.

The Linux distros are customizable, and there are methods to allow the HP Cluster Management Software to do the bus provisioning that allows cartridges to be used in scale-out schemes.


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