ARM TechCon 2013: HP’s Game-Changing Moonshot

Martin Fink, CTO and Director of HP Labs., Hewlett-Packard Company, presented a keynote titled New Style of IT at the recent ARM TechCon 2013.

Martin Fink, CTO and Director of HP Labs, Hewlett-Packard Company, holds one of the Moonshot-based blade servers in his hands.


Fink first reviewed how IT has progressed from the mainframe in the 1970s and ‘80s, to the clients and servers of the 1990s, the Internet of the 2000s, and the cloud, social, Big Data, and mobile computing since 2010. Along with these changes, many IT companies emerged then faded from the main stage. No one has any objection to this statement, I think.

Along with the current trend, the Internet of things (IoT) is becoming a reality, with smart connected devices and exploded Web traffic, as shown in the picture below along with a bunch of interesting current statistics and predictions for 2020.

Let me reproduce the statistics in the picture.



In one minute:

  • 98K tweets
  • 23,148 applications downloaded
  • 400,710 ad requests
  • 2K lyrics played on tunewiki
  • 1.5K pings sent on pingme
  • 208,333 minutes Angry Birds played

  • 30 billion devices
  • 40 T GB data
  • 10 million mobile applications
  • World population: 8 billion



Fink said HP thinks that today’s servers are not equipped for future IT demands from the standpoint of data center construction ($10–$20B), the number of power plants required (8–10 more), and the large amount of power consumed (2 million homes’ worth), as shown in the next picture.

So here comes Moonshot for software-defined servers with:

  • 80% less space
  • 77% less cost
  • 89% less energy
  • 97% less complexity

On October 28, one day before the conference began, HP announced the availability of Moonshot, based on Calxeda. Since this was an ARM conference, Fink talked only about ARM chips, but HP also has a version with Intel’s ATOM chip, which was announced April 8.

He showed three versions of Moonshot server blades, shown in the next picture. They are from Calxeda, Texas Instruments (TI), and Applied Micro. Although the Calxeda version has been formally announced, the details of the TI and Applied Micro versions have not been formally announced yet.

Fink then talked about how ARM and open source are enabling technology shifts. He further divided the technology into subcategories, as shown in the next picture.

For each subcategory, he compared what it once was (“From”) with what it is now (“To”):




Memory/storage Nine levels of hierarchy Massive, universal main memory
Compute General purpose architecture Energy/algorithm optimized SoC ecosystems
Interconnect Electrical signaling Integrated photonics
Open source data management platform Transactional/relational databases Open source data management platform
Content access & consumption Multiple stand-alone devices Visual/interactive real-time data consumption


Those points are mostly self-explanatory. Progress in hardware technologies has made most of the things above possible. Furthermore, IoT deals with a variety of equipment and devices of many form factors and purposes in different domains. It is important to customize a solution for a specific device or piece of equipment in a specific domain. Traditional transactional/relational databases can no longer handle the massive amount of data generated and collected in real time (Big Data). It is time to adopt NoSQL.

In summary, HP Moonshot was designed and developed to accommodate the trends just mentioned by employing advanced hardware technology and many open source solutions, including:

  • Applications, such as Cassandra, Couchbase, HBase, VoltDB, MongoDB, and Hadoop
  • Tools, such as GCC, Java, and OpenShift
  • Linux, such as Red Hat, SUSE, and Ubuntu

As a server provider, HP sees IoT as a business opportunity to produce a specific solution for a specific need of a given customer in the IoT ecosystem. It is interesting to see software becoming more important than hardware. As a former software developer, I welcome this trend. Many IT jobs can be done with less energy, and the efficiency of hardware use is increased. The digital society will continue to grow and more energy may be necessary. But with green IT, a good balance between convenience and benefits to the society and energy use could be established.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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