Menu
Prototype of HP's futuristic 'Machine' coming next year

Prototype of HP's futuristic 'Machine' coming next year

The prototype will use DRAM, however, not the memristors eventually envisioned

A mock-up of HP's Machine at the HP Discover conference June 3

A mock-up of HP's Machine at the HP Discover conference June 3

A prototype of Hewlett-Packard's futuristic Machine computer will be ready for partners to develop software on by next year, though the finished product is still half a decade away.

The single-rack prototype will have 2,500 CPU cores and an impressive 320TB of main memory, CTO and HP Labs Director Martin Fink told reporters at the HP Discover conference Wednesday. This is more than 20 times the amount of any server on the market today, he claimed.

But there's a catch: the prototype will use current DRAM memory chips, because the advanced memristor technology that HP eventually plans to use is still under development -- one of the big reasons The Machine remains several years away.

HP is placing a huge bet that it can develop a new type of computer that stores all data in vast pools of non-volatile memory. HP says the Machine will be superior to any computer today. A system the size of a refrigerator will be able to do the work of a whole data center, it claims.

Rivals have scoffed, pointing to the massive task of rewriting software for a new architecture. But HP thinks it's the only way to deal with tomorrow's vast data sets in an energy efficient way.

In current server architectures, the CPUs lie at the center, with multiple layers of memory and storage attached, including DRAM and hard disk drives. HP's goal is to do away with disk drives altogether, and replace DRAM with pools of non-volatile memory.

That type of memory keeps its data when the power is switched off, so the Machine can be highly energy efficient. Non-volatile memory exists today, for example NAND Flash, but its performance is slow, at least in high-performance computing terms, and memristors should offer far greater storage density.

Next year's prototype machine won't be very energy efficient, however. HP will have to keep all that DRAM powered up so that the data will be available to applications. But it will act as a "proxy" for non-volatile memory, Fink said, allowing partners like SAP to start testing applications.

He sees a later version of the Machine using phase-change memory, which is another type of nonvolatile memory still under development, and memristors arriving after that.

The Machine makes memory "a first class citizen," he said, with memory pools linked by high-speed silicon photonics that will carry data at 1.2TB per second.

"The Machine is driven by making memory the center of the universe, with the processors surrounding it," he said. And he has a new name for the architecture the Machine is based on: Memory Driven Computing.

HP is having a "huge debate" about the applications that will run on the machine. Most people want to transfer over existing workloads, which HP says will be possible, but more interesting are the new applications not possible today.

Fink offered the example of a plane that lands at an airport 30 minutes early but can't make use of a nearby empty gate, because the airline's computer systems aren't smart enough to know it's available.

The Machine will let airlines store all the details about every arrival and departure time, along with gate information, weather data and all the other variables, all in-memory and available for immediate processing.

It's a great story, but as with any major new technology that's still five years out, it's impossible to say if it will pan out. Intel once thought it would take over the world with a new processor architecture called Itanium, and that chip seems headed for the scrap heap.

But HP is pushing full steam ahead. A Labs booth on the HP Discover show floor has been given over to showcasing technologies that will go inside the new system, including the silicon photonics components.

One booth shows an emulation tool HP engineers are using to develop the Machine's OS and firmware. On a laptop, it can simulate the huge memory pools the system will use even though the hardware itself doesn't exist yet.

Known as the Machine Architecture Simulator, it can also simulate compute nodes for the Machine, and engineers can select from x86 or ARM-type processors, indicating The Machine will be processor agnostic.

In fact, the type of processor isn't important, Fink said. Large companies could even design their own, application-specific CPUs, or attach GPUs or network interface cards.

One booth shows a mock-up of what part of the Machine will look like -- but it's a non-working model, a reminder of the work HP still has to do.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags serversprocessorsHewlett-Packardhardware systemsComponents

Featured

Slideshows

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA

Reseller News has honoured the leading female front runners of the New Zealand ICT industry at the 2019 Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) in Auckland. The awards recognised standout individuals across six categories, spanning Entrepreneur, Rising Star, Shining Star, Community, Technical and Achievement. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA
Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

The 2019 Reseller News Innovation Awards has kicked off with the Judges Lunch in Auckland with 70 judges in the voting panel. The awards will reflect the changing dynamics of the channel, recognising excellence across customer value and innovation - spanning start-ups, partners, distributors and vendors. Photos by Christine Wong.

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch
Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2018 inductees - Chris Simpson, Kendra Ross and Phill Patton - to the third running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing landscape of the technology industry in New Zealand, while outlining ways to attract a new breed of players to the ecosystem. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments