Whatever you may think of HP as a company, it's hard to disagree with the vision it laid out last week with Project Moonshot, a program intended to "pave the way to the future of low-energy computing for emerging Web, cloud, and massive scale environments."
Moonshot's first volley is the Redstone Server: a tiny-footprint, energy-sipping wonder based on the ARM architecture that, if successful, would take data center efficiency to a new level. For the Redstone Server Development Platform, HP tapped Calxeda, a startup that used ARM's A9 chip to create the EnergyCore ARM Cortex "server on a chip." Calxeda claims each sever consumes a mere 5 watts of power on average -- 1.25 watts per each of its four cores.
Obviously, that metric doesn't include memory or connected devices. But according to HP, if you factor it out, Redstone servers would consume "89 percent less energy and 94 percent less space" than traditional servers.
This is exactly the direction in which the data center must go, regardless of which vendors supply the means. Power is a huge expense that outstrips the cost of the hardware itself (not to mention that reducing greenhouses gases just got more urgent than ever).
HP chose Canonical's Ubuntu Server as the operating system for Redstone. According to Canonical, Ubuntu Server was selected because it has a proven track record of running "at scale" across thousands of instances for public cloud services -- and it's the first operating system utilized for HP's public cloud service, now in beta. The public cloud, after all, is the de facto laboratory for the future data center.
But Redstone marks a major departure from the typical data center in another way -- one that might make it impractical for mainstream applications. Today, virtualization is the standard means to extract the last ounce of utilization from server infrastructure. Redstone takes an entirely different approach: Rather than slicing up servers to run on multiple virtual machines, Redstone eschews virtualization, with one instance of Ubuntu Server for each EnergyCore server on a chip.