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Savvis Looks to HP's Moonshot for Big Data Offering

Savvis may be the first major cloud provider to deploy Hewlett-Packard's new Moonshot servers for customers looking to lower the footprints of their datacenters amidst increasing capacity requirements. Moonshot, launched Monday, represents one of the most significant changes in server architectures since the transition to blade servers a decade ago. However, the emphasis is on introducing low-power processors equipped in low-end notebook PCs and tablets to large server farms.

HP CEO Meg Whitman has hailed Moonshot as key to the struggling company's effort to right its ship and transform its datacenter, software and infrastructure offerings for the cloud era. The company is already using its new Moonshot systems to serve up one-sixth of the traffic at HP.com but officials would not say how or if it's being used for its public cloud Infrastructure as a Service. But HP did showcase Savvis as one cloud provider on the cusp of doing so.

I caught up with Brent Juelich, Savvis VP of application services, to get a better sense of the cloud provider's deployment plans. Savvis started testing the Moonshot 1500 systems several months ago. While Savvis engineers are still completing those tests, Juelich told me he's confident they will be deployed to enable its big data service offering later this year.

"We were quite surprised and pleased with the results," Juelich said. "We found it quite the ideal platform for various types of big data workloads, as well as we could see the potential to leverage the type of platform for other types of applications. It's not a perfect fit for everything but it's good for certain content like Web serving, big data like the Hadoop, and I would say the more common workloads, it certainly makes sense."

Juelich said the Savvis engineers are now starting to run financial calculations but he seemed convinced the systems could reduce its cost of operations and offer better performance, relative to the other HP Proliant servers running its cloud and hosting infrastructure. 

The new Moonshot 1500 enclosure is the first deliverable of one of the most significant datacenter-oriented R&D efforts out of HP Labs in recent years. HP company is hoping Moonshot 1500 will offer new thresholds in performance and economics by making it easier to offer variable capacity using substantially less real estate. The Moonshot 1500 enclosures support up to 45 server cartridges that can be configured with traditional disk drives or flash-based solid state drives (SSDs).

The initial system is powered by Intel Atom processors. Moonshot servers due out later this year will be powered by lower-power ARM-based processors. Because Moonshot was designed for these low-power processors, HP said its 4U-based Moonshot servers require 80 percent less space than its conventional servers, use 89 percent less energy, and are 77 percent less expensive to operate.

In addition, Moonshot integrates well with existing server farms, according to Savvis' Juelich. "This model didn't force us to change any of our processes," he said. "We were able to wheel this thing in, connect it up, and have it functional in no time whatsoever. The fact that it has power reduction is nice because the heating, cooling and power costs that go to the server goes down to the total value. When we offer the service out to our customers, what it costs us to power, run and maintain the gear goes into the price point of what we can offer the service to our customers. If we can save money there, we can offer those savings on to our customers and be more competitive."

In terms of his comment that the Moonshot systems aren't perfect for everything, I asked Juelich to elaborate. "If a customer comes in with an analytics package that needs extremely high I/O and extremely high memory, that will dictate a different type of architecture," he said. "But for general use, Moonshot would be a good platform."

Indeed, Elias Khnaser said on his Virtual Insider blog that in virtualized environments, the first iteration of Moonshot wouldn't make sense. You can find out why here (I won't steal his thunder). One hint, though, is that it has limited VM support, at least for now, but HP officials say VMware and Hyper-V support is coming as the ability to run Windows Server (the initial offerings will only be available with Linux).

Arvind Krishna, general manager of development and manufacturing for IBM's systems and technology group, raised similar questions when asked during a conversation we had today. In addition, he questioned the value of using low-power processors. "I think there's a place for micro servers, but the way they came out and the way they announced is not creative," Krishna said. "They say it's good for an MSP who wants to run lots of workloads. Wait a moment, isn't that what virtualization can do for you on a better and stronger processor? You've got to look at it in that lens."

So I asked him whether IBM will be playing in the micro server space. "No comment, but if we do, it will be something that has some client value," he said. "On that, I can't figure out any client value."

Do you see yourself deploying HP's Moonshot for your private cloud? Or would you like to see your public cloud providers offer it as an option? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/11/2013 at 12:49 PM


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