HP Moonshot: End Of The Beginning Or Beginning Of The End?

HP is making a big deal about the launch of its first Moonshot servers that reportedly deliver compelling new infrastructure economics by using up to 89% less energy, 80% less space and costing 77% less, compared to traditional servers. In a Webcast announcing the platform and products, President and CEO Meg Whitman called Moonshot the “first step for creating the foundation for the next 20 billion devices.” She said the path we’re on of explosive growth is not sustainable in terms of space, energy, cost and complexity.

So is HP’s new server platform the end of the beginning of its turnaround from the disasters that have characterized its recent past, or the beginning of that end? In and of itself, Moonshot is not going to launch HP to the heights of technological leadership, market domination or hyper sales. However, it does open the door to a number of possibilities that could put the struggling IT leader in a much better position, and that’s a pretty positive development.

“This is a clear example of great innovation at HP,” said John Gromala, Director, Product Marketing, Industry Standard Servers and Software. “This is a case where HP is making that next step to drive that industry in the next direction.”

Between 50 and 70 customers have been doing early testing on the platform, as well as HP’s own IT group, which has implemented Moonshot servers to support the hp.com environment, which receives approximately 3 million visits per day. “Testing results show that with Moonshot servers we can expect to run hp.com, with the energy equivalency of a dozen 60-watt light bulbs, which is a game changer,” said John Hinshaw, executive vice president, Technology and Operations, HP. “We also plan to deploy Moonshot for additional applications to lead the next wave of transformation in the data center.”

The origins of Moonshot go back a decade to some early research done by HP Labs, but active system development began two years ago, said Gromala.

Following last month’s HP Industry Analyst Summit, Bob Laliberte, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, said HP is working on developing some game-changing technology and will be highlighting their innovative and transformative solutions over the coming years.  “Clearly there is still a lot of work to do, but if they can bring back the HP innovation, motivate the employees and GTM channels, and execute against the plan, HP should be back on the right track.”

The Moonshot technology is not as interesting as how HP will leverage Moonshot to pivot the company beyond its ruthless news headlines, said ESG Senior Analyst Mark Bowker. Moonshot is going to be used as a pivot point in the company to demonstrate technology leadership, validate that HP can and will innovate in a rapidly changing market and if all goes as planned execute in delivering a new breed of servers into today’s modern data center.”

For the last quarter of 2012, HP was second to IBM in server market share, with 28.8% of the revenue, although unlike Big Blue and third-place Dell, whose revenues grew, it saw a 3.2% decrease, according to IDC. HP’s performance was much stronger in the blade category, holding almost half the (smaller – just 16.3% of total server revenue) market (44.7%).

Scheduled to be released in the second half of 2013 and initially based on the Intel Atom S1200 processor – both 32 and 64-bit ARM-based versions are scheduled for later this year – the second-generation Moonshot system consists of the 1500 enclosure, a 4.3u server enclosure, 45 ProLiant servers, one network switch and supporting components, with support for up to 1,800 servers per rack. Each chassis shares components including the fabric, HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLo) management, power supply and cooling fans. Pricing begins at $61,875 for the enclosure, 45 servers and switch.

The servers are intended to support emerging web, cloud and massive scale environments, as well as analytics and telecommunications. The product roadmap includes servers for big data, high-performance computing, gaming, financial services, genomics, facial recognition, video analysis and other applications.

In addition to the server, HP also announced its Pathfinder Innovation Ecosystem of partners, including AMD, AppliedMicro, Calxeda, Intel and Texas Instruments. While the company plans to be selective in who eventually joints the group, there are currently around 25 silicon vendors, operating system developers and independent software vendors (ISVs), and more will be added to address specific needs and opportunities. There are also new services and an enhanced partner program.




Author: Steve Wexler

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