Two and a half years ago, HPrevealed a new, revolutionary computer architecture it dubbed “The Machine.” This new computing platform would combine cutting-edge and still unproven technologies like memristors, silicon photonics, and truly massive amounts of addressable memory. HP was forced to dial back some of its ambition when it proved too difficult to bring the entire project to market all at the same time, but it refused to give up on the idea of what it calls “Memory-Driven Computing.”
Today, HP is announcing that it has demonstrated the major components of this new type of system, albeit in prototype form. The Machine as currently constituted consists of:
Compute nodes accessing a shared pool of Fabric-Attached Memory
An optimized Linux-based operating system (OS) running on a customized System on a Chip (SOC)
Photonics/Optical communication links, including the new X1 photonics module, are online and operational
New software programming tools designed to take advantage of abundant persistent memory.
The Machine (well, one “blade” of it, anyway). The DIMM slots are filled with NAND Flash; HP wants to transition to lower-latency memory that competes directly with DRAM in the next few years.
HP has previously shown off some of these components, like its X1 silicon photonics module. The X1 module is capable of transferring data at up to 1.2Tbps (150GB/s of bandwidth) over a 30-50 meter distance. HP has also demonstrated silicon photonics technology that can move data up to 50 kilometers (30 miles) at 200Gbps. HP’s major goal with The Machine is to create a system in which non-volatile memory (NVM)serves as a true DRAM replacement, offering at least equivalent latency with drastically reduced power consumption and low-latency optical interconnects.
Customers will still have the option to deploy The Machine as a conventional system but HP’s goal is to offer huge pools of NVM that can be shared across many SoCs. While the diagrams below only refer to CPUs, there’s no reason this model couldn’t be extended to other types of accelerators — vector processors like Intel’s Xeon Phi or GPUs from AMD and Nvidia could at least theoretically be paired with HP’s new architecture. The following slideshow steps through some of HP’s design elements, and the benefits it expects to offer with The Machine compared to traditional systems. Images can be clicked to enlarge them in a new window.