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Prototype of HP's futuristic 'Machine' coming next year

James Niccolai | June 4, 2015
A prototype of Hewlett-Packard's futuristic Machine computer will be ready for partners to develop software on by next year, though the finished product is still half a decade away.

Fink offered the example of a plane that lands at an airport 30 minutes early but can't make use of a nearby empty gate, because the airline's computer systems aren't smart enough to know it's available.

The Machine will let airlines store all the details about every arrival and departure time, along with gate information, weather data and all the other variables, all in-memory and available for immediate processing.

It's a great story, but as with any major new technology that's still five years out, it's impossible to say if it will pan out. Intel once thought it would take over the world with a new processor architecture called Itanium, and that chip seems headed for the scrap heap.

But HP is pushing full steam ahead. A Labs booth on the HP Discover show floor has been given over to showcasing technologies that will go inside the new system, including the silicon photonics components.

One booth shows an emulation tool HP engineers are using to develop the Machine's OS and firmware. On a laptop, it can simulate the huge memory pools the system will use even though the hardware itself doesn't exist yet.

Known as the Machine Architecture Simulator, it can also simulate compute nodes for the Machine, and engineers can select from x86 or ARM-type processors, indicating The Machine will be processor agnostic.

In fact, the type of processor isn't important, Fink said. Large companies could even design their own, application-specific CPUs, or attach GPUs or network interface cards.

One booth shows a mock-up of what part of the Machine will look like — but it's a non-working model, a reminder of the work HP still has to do.

 

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