SAN FRANCISCO – Hewlett-Packard will roll out a processor-agnostic chassis called Gemini later this year geared for low power servers. Intel’s Centerton, a dual-core, 64-bit Atom SoC, will be the first CPU to ship in the system with ARM server SoCs following in the future.
HP will open its Discovery Lab to end users within 60 days showing servers running multiple ARM server SoCs as well as Centerton-based systems. Previously, the world’s largest server maker had only said it was testing a 32-bit ARM server SoC from startup Calxeda.
“Years from now we will say this is where the disruption began with low energy servers,” said Paul Santeler, general manager of HP’s hyperscale business unit, referring to the Gemini/Centerton launch. “We really expect Gemini will create a disruption around low energy servers,” he added.
The Gemini system will accommodate Atom and ARM cartridges to target different workloads. The cartridges will house CPUs, memory and possibly other components.
Both HP and Intel declined to give details on the Gemini system and the Centerton processor until the products are formally announced later this year. Intel said previously Centerton is a 6W, 32 nm SoC that supports virtualization, error correction code and has some integrated I/O.
Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel’s cloud infrastructure group, said Intel and HP will work on future low energy processors. Intel will deliver a version of its Atom server SoC in its 22 nm technology in 2013, he added.
The Web site for HP’s Project Moonshot, its low power server initiative, is currently running on a single Gemini server using a Centerton processor. The Gemini server is handling 300 concurrent Web sessions, serving 2,500 concurrent Web pages while consuming 12-14W, compared to 150W for a similar Intel Xeon server, HP said.
HP declined to name what other ARM SoCs beyond the Calxeda CPU it will show running in its lab where end users will be able to run test applications. At least one company has an unannounced ARM server SoC in the works, said Santeler.
Among the other players, Applied Micro announced last year its plans for a 64-bit ARM server SoC. Dell said it is using Marvell’s Armada XP in prototype servers for end user testing. Nvidia announced plans for a broad line of ARM-based computer CPUs. Samsung has hired a high profile ARM server SoC team in Austin.
HP echoes comments of other developers who have said the significant work is still ahead to get ARM SoCs ready for commercial servers. However, the 32-bit ARM SoCs, such as the Calxeda chip, “will work fine on some workloads,” Santeler said.
The Gemini systems will target a broad range of workloads including Web hosting, Hadoop analytics and Memcached memroy caching. HP may choose different ARM SoCs to target specific apps.
It's not surprising Intel is going first in HP's Gemini system given the
64-bit x86 chip will be in production late this year. Most ARM SoCs are
not yet ready for prime time, but the extent to which they become used
over the next several years will be a measure of how much disruption
this sector sees. HP's CPU-agnostic design is a sign it sees this trend
will be significant.
By 2015, HP estimates, 10-15 percent of the global server market could be using extremely low energy systems.
Intel's Jason Waxman (left) holds a Centerton chip next to HP's Paul Santeler.