HP has worked up quite a reputation for being the king of drama over the last several years. However, this week the company shifted the drama where it belongs: with the products.
Yes, HP announced an ARM based server platform targeted at Cloud applications that promises to significantly reduce server costs for companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and other entities who live off of the web.
Yet, this is just the beginning of a much bigger revolution.
In a session after the announcement, HP Labs talked about the new as the first step to replace processor architectures, networking, and storage as we know it with a fabric based on their unique Memristor technology which is apparently close to initial test fabrication.
This would suggest HP is actually on the cusp of a revolution similar to the transistor. If properly executed, the new paradigm could put the company at the heart of an intense technology storm.
The Problem with Current Architectures
Remember, whether we are talking PCs or servers, the base architecture goes back decades to before there was a web or high speed networks. Repositories were, back in the days of yore, measured in megabytes. Now they are gauged in terabytes, with bottlenecks moving from slow processors, to slow memory, latency and crawling networks. As such, most forms of storage and traditional copper networking has become increasingly inadequate and will likely hit a wall in a few short years.
Add these limitations to the cloud, the massive movement of data to the most optimized resource, and virtualization. What do you get? The potential for the mother of all performance killers - the current server and storage architecture.
Memristors + Tiny Cheap Cores
But what if you could break the storage, networking, and processor elements into tiny parts that could be reassigned and grouped in close proximity on demand?
Well, Memristors represent the best aspects of both magnetic media (they are non-volatile) and flash (they are fast to read and write, consume little power, and are solid state). So, what if you took these storage elements and put them in groups in close proximity, perhaps on the same boards, as ARM processors?
You’d then have ultrafast high-capacity storage in extreme proximity to power efficient cores. Meaning, half Memristor-powered racks would likely be equivalent to several racks of more traditional products. In addition, the close proximity, coupled with the high on-board speed and optical fiber connections between the boards, should result in not only a sharp performance increase but also facilitate massive power savings.
While the end products likely would initially look a lot like existing server blades or rack mounted servers, they could be built in almost any configuration; as while the circuit density is high, the thermal requirements are actually comparatively low. Since proximity will be the major problem - imagine servers that look more like balls or cubes than they do today at some future point to minimize the distance between components that may need to dynamically share loads.
In short, HP opened up a can of whoop-ass on the technology market and we really don’t see that very often.
Wrapping Up: Personal Technology?
Smartphones and tablets kicked off the trend toward very low cost cores and eventually, what appears to be an aggressively redesigned computing architecture. However, many of these changes can be applied to future generations of PCs, tablets and smartphones - providing ever higher performance at ever lower battery life.
Just try and think of future devices that will revolutionize the market by making current-gen iPads and iPhones look fat, slow, and power hungry. Of course, irrespective of whether or not this actually happens, the good news is that HP is back to providing product drama, something which is long overdue. The Meg Whitman HP is certainly looking better and better all the time.