There’s been a lot of talk about the future of computing. But little progress in regards to great leaps forward in technology that resemble the onboard talking computer on Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise. or Gideon (pictured above), an interactive artificial consciousness used by Eobard Thawne on CW’s popular sci-fi series The Flash.
With that said, it seems that Hewlett Packard has taken a big, big step forward in computing while in the process pushing the boundaries of physics. The company has recently unveiled The Machine (which could be a nod to the advanced surveillance system known as the “Machine” in the widely viewed CBS TV series, Person of Interest). The Machine from HP does away with sixty years of the traditional computing model in one fell swoop.
Like some kind of computing freak of science, The Machine uses electrons for computation, photons for communication, and memristors, which give it unified memory that's as fast as RAM but stores data permanently, like a flash drive.
So how did we get here? The IDC claims the amount of data in the world is doubling in size every two years. By 2020, the amount of data we generate and duplicate annually will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes. In order to avoid a data catastrophe, there must be a big transformation in infrastructure to manage, collect, process, and store all this data.
With The Machine’s organic ability to process data through its clusters of special-purpose cores, photonics, and ions for storage, we may be seeing the collapse of Moore’s Law.
The Machine accomplishes these breathtaking computing feats through its ability to manipulate and interpret ginormous datasets in orders of magnitude of less energy per compute. These levels of compute are achieved by keeping energy consumption low by using light (photonics) instead of electrons and copper wire for communications.
As of now, The Machine is still considered a project. But when it’s released, it could replace a data center’s worth of equipment with a single refrigerator-size machine. HP says it will bring The Machine to market within the next few years or fall on its face trying.
The Machine started to take shape about three years ago, after HP CTO Martin Fink was named director of HP Labs. Assessing the company’s projects, he says, made it clear that HP was developing the needed components to create a better computing system.
Considering the amount of data being created in the world, memory represents perhaps the biggest opportunity for change. As the current memory technology hits its physical limits, dozens of companies continue to work on possible replacements. HP’s bet is the memristor, a nanoscale chip that is an essential part of The Machine’s ability to compute.
With organizations constantly challenged to manage and store the increasing amount of data, The Machine comes as a welcome solution. But it won’t be available until 2018.Whether The Machine will be like an early version of the Enterprise’s onboard computer or The Flash’s Gideon we can only guess. In the meantime, you can get Flash Storage with $1.50-per-GB pricing from HP.