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HPE demos ‘The Machine’: Prototype 160TB memory-centric computer

Stuart Corner | June 12, 2017
Hewlett Packard Enterprise has given a prototype of its new memory-centric computer architecture, dubbed ‘The Machine’ its first public airing, in Washington DC

Bresniker said those investigations were continuing but the prototype used standard DRAM with the non-volatility being simulated by the use of an uninterruptible power supply.

"We continue our work in earnest looking at all the technologies coming out, but DRAM was the right answer for us to learn as much as we could as quickly as we could about having that much memory on a fabric," he said. "That was a reasonable compromise for us."

Commercialisation in stages

HPE is still not saying anything definite about the realisation of a commercial product. Asked, "Will it be 2020, 2025, 2030?" Bresniker said: "I think it wil be sooner than 2030. ... You will see individual technologies coming out of our research and development that wil make or commercial platforms better and that will happen sooner rather than later."

He added: "We have demonstrated the advantages, the efficacy of our approach. When we started this was not necessarily a proven thing. We had our hypotheses that when we brought together large next generation memories, task specific computation and adapted existing software and developed new software we would get an important speed up factor and what we have established through our emulation and simulation on the prototype is ranges of improvement that are 10, 100 times better.

10,000 times faster

"In extreme cases of teams doing brand new approaches to Monte Carlo analysis [s a technique used to understand the impact of risk and uncertainty in financial, project management, cost, and other forecasting models] an order of 10,000 times improvement and that is enough for use to says this is an approach that has merit, that we need to understand."

He added that, while the prototype used off-the-shelf systems on a chip (Cavium's dual socket capable ARMv8-A ThunderX2) the photonic fabric was proprietary and much of the other hardware used programmable devices, all of which would have to be replicated in commercial silicon before any commercial product would be produced. "Those design cycles are of the order of two to three years," he said.

HPE's largest R&D project ever

HPE says the project to develop The Machine is the largest in its history, and the company has been talking about it for several years. In her keynote presentation at HPE's Discover 2016 event in London, CEO Meg Whitman said she believed in-memory computing represented "the next inflexion point in information technology.

"The ability to capture, analyse and store massive amounts of data at speeds that are unthinkable today has the potential to transform everything from healthcare to education, transportation retail.

While commercial realisation of The Machine might be several years away Whitman said the concepts underpinning it were already being implemented in commercial HPE products.

 

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