HP rethinks computer architectures with ''The Machine''

HP is working on a new kind of computer architecture that could revolutionize how servers and eventually even PCs are built. It's called "The Machine," and it draws upon a couple of cutting-edge technologies that have been in development for years. One of them is non-volatile memory based on memristors, which promises wicked-fast performance and extremely high storage densities. The other is silicon photonics, which uses light to transmit signals instead of electrical current.

Businessweek has the scoop on the project, although the details are pretty scarce. As far as I can tell, The Machine is designed to provide huge pools of memristor-based memory that can be treated as storage and accessed quickly via optical interconnects.

Modern operating systems aren't designed for that sort of architecture, so HP is developing several of its own. Machine OS is being created from the ground up with the assumption that the CPU can tap high-speed memory for storage. HP is also brewing tweaked variants of Linux and Android based on the same assumption.

Work on The Machine reportedly started a couple of years ago, and HP is going all-in on the idea. As much as 75% of HP Labs' staff will reportedly be devoted to the project. They're apparently pretty excited about it, too. John Sontag, HP's VP of systems research, told Businessweek "people in Labs see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

The Machine could be ready as early as 2017, according to Fink, or as late as 2020. That's a wide window, and the whole thing is contingent on advanced technologies that haven't been proven. Add your own salt.

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