Accelerating The Machine

Customers are excited about The Machine. Virtually every customer and partner we’ve spoken to thinks we’re on the right track. Last week at Discover, I gave an update on the progress of The Machine project. For those that couldn’t attend, I’d like to share some of the key points.

Everything the team working on The Machine project across HPE is doing is designed to get us working, useful Machine prototypes as fast as possible.

We call this process hardware/software co-development. We’re building hardware to handle data structures and run applications that don’t exist today. Simultaneously, we’re writing code to run on hardware that doesn’t exist today. To do this, we emulate the nascent hardware inside the best systems available, such as HPE Superdome X. What we learn in hardware goes into the emulators so the software can improve. What we learn in software development informs the hardware teams. It’s a virtuous cycle.

The heart of The Machine is memory. This is so different from the processor-centric architecture today that we decided The Machine architecture needed a new name: Memory-Driven Computing.

A lot of memory. We’re aiming for hundreds of petabytes of memory that needs to be fast and persistent. (Even the first prototype will cram hundreds of terabytes of fast, persistent memory into a single rack.) The perfect memory doesn’t exist today. We can get fast or persistent, but not both at once.

Remember that point about wanting working prototypes as soon as possible? We can get there sooner if we use plain old DRAM as a stand-in for the perfect memory technology. No, DRAM isn’t persistent, but we can emulate persistence.

Do we still intend to use Memristors? Yes, of course. We still believe that it’s the best candidate, but as everyone who works in the chip industry knows, the road from “lab to fab” is a long and rocky one. We’re not there—yet.

Should we wait until Memristors are ready before making prototype Machines? No, that wouldn’t make much sense. We want as many people to be able to start working in a memory-driven world as soon as possible. And, pragmatically, we want to show off what we’ve created in a tangible form, doing something amazing.

We’re talking about the first realization of The Machine architecture—Version 0.9, if you will. The versions that follow will only get better. Should we use another memory technology if it matures before Memristor, Phase-change RAM, perhaps? Again, the answer is yes, of course. It moves us forward faster, because it moves our industry and the world forward, solving real-world challenges that we can’t even approach today.