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HP's Moonshot server now packs 64-bit ARM chips

James Niccolai | Sept. 30, 2014
Customers can now buy Moonshot with Applied Micro's ARM-based X-Gene system-on-chip, in a server aimed at customers running web caching applications such as memecache, as well as high performance computing workloads that require high throughput.

It's been a long road getting there but Hewlett-Packard has become the first major vendor to add a 64-bit ARM server to its price list.

HP has added a 64-bit ARM chip as one of the options for Moonshot, a new type of server from HP that can accommodate different chip architectures to address specific workloads.

Customers can now buy Moonshot with Applied Micro's ARM-based X-Gene system-on-chip, in a server aimed at customers running web caching applications such as memecache, as well as high performance computing workloads that require high throughput.

HP is also offering a 32-bit ARM option from Texas instruments with an integrated DSP chip. That system is designed for processing complex data streams at high volume in real time, allowing for work such as hunting down fraud in e-commerce networks.

The ARM options join the Moonshot systems based on x86 processors that HP has already been selling.

ARM CPUs are more commonly used in smartphones and tablets, but proponents say their low power consumption makes them good for building servers that consume little energy and pack a lot of compute power in a small space -- the main selling points for Moonshot.

A few other vendors, notably Dell, have built 64-bit ARM-based servers for particular customers, but HP is the first big vendor that's selling one as a standard product. Customers can order the systems starting Monday and HP will ship them throughout October, said Gerald Kleyn, director of Moonshot R&D.

PayPal is using the X-Gene servers in production for data analysis, he said, and Sandia National Laboratories is using them for a high performance computing application that they'll discuss at ARM's TechCon conference this week.

HP first talked about putting ARM chips in Moonshot three years ago, but it switched gears soon after and the first systems, introduced last year, were based on Intel Atom processors. Soon after, its initial ARM partner, Calxeda, went out of business, partly because the ARM server market was moving too slowly.

It's taken longer than some expected for the 64-bit ARM servers to get to market, but many pieces have had to fall in place, including software that will run on the ARM architecture.

That software is still fairly limited, but that's OK since most companies will use them for specific tasks where the low power use and high density can pay off, Kleyn said.

The new Moonshot servers ship with Canonical's Ubuntu Linux pre-installed, as well as a stack of software from ngnix that includes memecache and other web programs, he said. IBM's Informix is also offered as an option - the only commercial database currently available for Moonshot..

HP is also giving developers remote access to 64-bit ARM systems in its labs so that they can develop more software.

 

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