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The Machine – HP Labs launches a bold new research initiative to transform the future of computing


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist



HP CTO and Director of HP Labs Martin Fink delivering his keynote presentation at HP Discover 2014 


It was the major research announcement at HP Discover this year and is HP Labs’ largest ever research project: what the company is dubbing The Machine.


The Machine is a multi-year, multi-faceted program to fundamentally redesign computing to handle the enormous data flows of the future. It aims to reinvent computer architecture from the ground up, enabling a quantum leap in performance and efficiency while lowering costs and improving security. Over half of HP Labs’ engineers are now dedicated to making its various components a reality.


“This changes everything,” said HP CEO Meg Whitman in introducing the Machine in her HP Discover 2014 keynote in Las Vegas. “We’ve been talking about many of the component technologies for some time,” she noted. “Now we’re bringing them together in a single project to make a revolutionary compute architecture available by the end of the decade.”


HP’s initiative builds on research in which HP Labs already leads the world, added HP CTO and Director of HP Labs Martin Fink in his own Discover presentation. “With Moonshot we’re creating system-on-a-chip packages that combine processors, memory, and connectivity,” he explained. “In our photonics research, we’re using light to connect hundreds of racks in a low-latency, 3D fabric. And our work in Memristors points to the development of universal memory – memory that collapses the memory/storage hierarchy by fusing the two functions in one hyper-efficient package.”


HP Labs simulations suggest that The Machine will achieve major increases in processing performance and energy efficiency over existing top-of-the-line conventional computers. In the example illustrated, The
Machine is able to manipulate massive graphs – the data structures underlying social networks for example – four times larger than the current record holder while using only one-twentieth of the energy. These improvements stand to impact every aspect of the technology sector, from handheld devices, to servers, to datacenters.



Currently, roughly 90% of the work done by a computer is devoted to moving information between tiers of memory and storage. By combing those tiers into what we call “universal memory” The Machine eliminates all that complexity, freeing us to re-imagine how software works, suggested Fink. “So as part of the Machine, we intend to build a new operating system optimized for non-volatile memory,” he announced.


Significantly, that OS will be open source. “We feel that operating system research has been stagnant for decades,” Fink said. “We want to reignite OS research and we’ll be working with our university partners around the world to do just that. Additionally, we’re going to be making our programming tools and emulators available so that the entire developer world can contribute and start to take advantage of the new capabilities that The Machine will enable.”


Fink concluded his Discover presentation by exploring how The Machine might impact our lives, predicting that it will place massive compute and storage power into all sorts of smart devices – electricity meters, cell towers, cell phones, jet engines – and will encourage a new, distributed mesh model of cloud computing that both transforms data into intelligence that can be immediately acted upon locally, and sends that intelligence securely to a centralized location to be further shared, analyzed, and learned from.


“We believe that the implications of the Machine will be dramatic,” noted Whitman in closing her remarks. “Energy consumption problems will virtually disappear. More real-time data will be processed into valuable, actionable insights and we’ll be presented with newly accessible information in medicine, in retailing, transportation, security, you name it.”


“This is how the world will take advantage of the Internet of Things without drowning in a sea of raw data,” she added. “When we say, ‘HP invents the future,’ this is what we’re talking about.”


View Meg and Martin’s launch of The Machine at HP Discover 2014:





Related Links:


To Handle the Big Data Deluge, HP Plots a Giant Leap Forward

HP Matter, June 2014


With ‘The Machine’ HP May have Invented a New Kind of Computer

Bloomberg, June 11 2014


HP’s Machine technology rethinks the basics of computing

Engagdet, June 12 2014


Fox Business interview with Martin Fink

Fox Business, June 11 2014

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I am so excited about the future of computing after this announcement. This is an incredible milestone in the histoy of computing, Well done HP for this enourmous achievement. This will change the landscape of computing for this century. I am so excited to experience this history unfold in my life time. Superb HP what a great job. 

Why Linux as the OS? why not use a microkernel based system ? An OS with self-healing properties that does not crash? Like Minix (from which Linux is derived).


Take a look at this:


Use a fail-safe system which is self-healing and does not crash! Operating system research has indicated that Microkernels have definite advantages over monolithic kernels (like Linux). If you want "The Machine" to be truly advanced and not obsolete at birth you have got to take a hint from the past 30 years of OS research. In addition to this Minix comes with the BSD license (which has advantages for a company, as Apple will tell you). If you do not like Minix, look at L4 as a microkernel (L4 pistachio also has the BSD license). Or look at HelenOS also a microkernel OS under the BSD license.

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