Author: Agam Shah

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HPE shows off The Machine prototype without memristors

In 2004, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s Kirk Bresniker set out to make radical changes to computer architecture with The Machine and drew out the first concept design on a whiteboard.

At the time Bresniker, now chief architect at HP Labs, wanted to build a system that could drive computing into the future. The goal was to build a computer that used cutting-edge technologies like memristors and photonics.

It’s been an arduous journey, but HPE on Tuesday finally showed a prototype of The Machine at a lab in Fort Collins, Colorado.

It’s not close to what the company envisioned with The Machine when it was first announced in 2014, but it follows the same principle of pushing computing into memory subsystems. The system breaks the limitations tied to conventional PC and server architecture in which memory is a bottleneck.

The standout feature in the mega server is the 160TB of memory capacity. No single server today can boast that memory capacity. It has more than three times the memory capacity of HPE’s Superdome X.

The Machine runs 1,280 Cavium ARM CPU cores. The memory and 40 32-core ARM chips — broken up into four Apollo 6000 enclosures — are linked via a super fast fabric interconnect. The interconnect is like a data superhighway on which multiple co-processors can be plugged in.

The connections are designed in a mesh network so memory and processor nodes can easily communicate with each other. FPGAs provide the controller logic for the interconnect fabric.

Computers will deal with huge amounts of information in the future and The Machine will be prepared for that influx, Bresniker said.

In a way, The Machine prepares computers for when Moore’s Law runs out of steam, he said. It’s becoming tougher to cram more transistors and features into chips, and The Machine is a distributed system that breaks up processing among multiple resources.

The Machine is also ready for futuristic technologies. Slots in The Machine allow the addition of photonics connectors, which will connect to the new fabric linking up storage, memory, and processors. The interconnect itself is an early implementation of the Gen-Z interconnect, which is backed by major hardware, chip, storage, and memory makers.

HPE is improving the memory subsystem and storage in PCs and servers, which is giving a boost to computing. While data is being processed faster inside memory and storage, it reduces the need to speed up instructions-per-clock in CPUs.

In-memory computing has sped up applications like databases and ERP systems, and HPE is blowing up the design of such systems. There’s also a move to decoupling memory and storage from main servers. That helps speed up computing and makes more efficient use of data center resources like cooling.

There have been some glitches, though. The initial model of The Machine was supposed to have memristors, a type of memory and storage that could help computers make decisions based on data they retain. HP announced memristor in 2008, but it has been delayed multiple times. The company is now developing technology with Western Digital, Bresniker said.

Bresniker is taking an open-source approach to the development of The Machine, with the ethos of cooperation among partners to build such systems in the future. This system is a prototype that will drive the development and implementation of Gen-Z and of circuits that can be used as co-processors.

While HPE is trying to build a new system, Intel is coming from another angle with its 3D Xpoint storage and memory. System makers will try to build faster computers around Intel’s 3D Xpoint-based Optane storage, which the chipmaker says will eventually replace DRAM and SSDs.

The Machine is a future computer architecture that is also practical, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

“The fact that they can do this and run programs on it, it’s absolutely amazing,” Moorhead said. The Machine runs a version of Linux.

The Machine stands somewhere between the computers of today and future systems like quantum computers. But it’s still three to five years away from being ready for practical implementation in data centers, Moorhead said.

References

  1. ^ InfoWorld’s 2017 Technology of the Year Award winners (www.infoworld.com)
  2. ^ InfoWorld Daily newsletter (www.infoworld.com)
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HPE’s futuristic The Machine revealed in prototype form, but without cutting-edge memristors

In 2004, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s Kirk Bresniker set out to make radical changes to computer architecture with The Machine and drew out the first concept design on a whiteboard.

At the time Bresniker, now chief architect at HP Labs, wanted to build a system that could drive computing into the future. The goal was to build a computer that used cutting-edge technologies like memristors and photonics.

It’s been an arduous journey, but HPE on Tuesday finally showed a prototype of The Machine at a lab in Fort Collins, Colorado.

It’s not close to what the company envisioned with The Machine when it was first announced in 2014 but follows the same principle of pushing computing into memory subsystems. The system breaks the limitations tied to conventional PC and server architecture in which memory is a bottleneck.

The standout feature in the mega server is the 160TB of memory capacity. No single server today can boast that memory capacity. It has more than three times the memory capacity of HPE’s Superdome X.

The Machine runs 1,280 Cavium ARM CPU cores. The memory and 40 32-core ARM chips—broken up into four Apollo 6000 enclosures—are linked via a super fast fabric interconnect. The interconnect is like a data superhighway on which multiple co-processors can be plugged in.

The connections are designed in a mesh network so memory and processor nodes can easily communicate with each other. FPGAs provide the controller logic for the interconnect fabric.

Computers will deal with huge amounts of information in the future and The Machine will be prepared for that influx, Bresniker said.

In a way, The Machine prepares computers for when Moore’s Law runs out of steam, he said. It’s becoming tougher to cram more transistors and features into chips, and The Machine is a distributed system that breaks up processing among multiple resources.

The Machine is also ready for futuristic technologies. Slots in The Machine allow the addition of photonics connectors, which will connect to the new fabric linking up storage, memory, and processors. The interconnect itself is an early implementation of the Gen-Z interconnect, which is backed by major hardware, chip, storage, and memory makers.

HPE is improving the memory subsystem and storage in PCs and servers, which is giving a boost to computing. While data is being processed faster inside memory and storage, it reduces the need to speed up instructions-per-clock in CPUs.

In-memory computing has sped up applications like databases and ERP systems, and HPE is blowing up the design of such systems. There’s also a move to decoupling memory and storage from main servers. That helps speed up computing and makes more efficient use of data center resources like cooling.

There have been some glitches, though. The initial model of The Machine was supposed to have memristors, a type of memory and storage that could help computers make decisions based on data they retain. HP announced memristor in 2008, but it has been delayed multiple times. The company is now developing technology with Western Digital, Bresniker said.

Bresniker is taking an open-source approach to the development of The Machine, with the ethos of cooperation among partners to build such systems in the future. This system is a prototype that will drive the development and implementation of Gen-Z and of circuits that can be used as co-processors.

While HPE is trying to build a new system, Intel is coming from another angle with its 3D Xpoint storage and memory. System makers will try to build faster computers around Intel’s 3D Xpoint-based Optane storage, which the chipmaker says will eventually replace DRAM and SSDs.

The Machine is a future computer architecture that is also practical, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

“The fact that they can do this and run programs on it, it’s absolutely amazing,” Moorhead said. The Machine runs a version of Linux.

The Machine stands somewhere between the computers of today and future systems like quantum computers. But it’s still three to five years away from being ready for practical implementation in data centers, Moorhead said.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook[1] page or our Twitter[2] feed.

References

  1. ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
  2. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
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Will Windows 10 on ARM PCs support Mixed Reality VR headsets?

A Windows-on-ARM PC is getting closer to reality. Microsoft showed off a prototype mini-desktop with an ARM processor running Windows 10 at last week’s Build conference, with the PC running applications like Office.

The PC was shown in a video[1] posted on the Channel 9 website. The presenters reinforced Microsoft’s previous message saying that all x86 applications will work on Windows-on-ARM PCs.

Microsoft has maintained that the experience on Windows 10-on-ARM PCs will be similar to x86 laptops, but many questions remain. One revolves around whether Windows 10-on-ARM PCs will support Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

At an Acer event last month a Microsoft spokesman said that for now, Windows Mixed Reality headsets are configured to support only the x86 instruction set. Microsoft reinforced that position at the Build conference.

Microsoft says PCs will require[2] at a minimum Intel’s dual-core Core i5 and an integrated HD 620 GPU to run its Windows Mixed Reality headsets. PC makers like Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, HP, and others will ship headsets. Last month, Acer said the price of its headset will start at $299.

But from ARM chipmaker Qualcomm’s perspective, all x86 apps will run on Windows 10-on-ARM PCs, which are expected later this year. That could include Mixed Reality headsets from working with the PCs.

“There’s nothing that would prohibit it from a hardware standpoint. I just think it’s a function of time,” Keith Kressin, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, said two months ago[3] at MWC.

The Windows 10-on-ARM PCs will run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, which has the ingredients to support Mixed Reality headsets. The chip has an integrated GPU that supports 4K video, the latest Bluetooth 5 wireless connectivity, and the latest display ports. Android mobile devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S8 handsets with the Snapdragon 835 already are capable of running mobile VR on headsets.

But Windows 10-on-ARM PCs are designed more for mobility than virtual reality, Kressin said. The laptops and 2-in-1s are being designed, in the mold of smartphones, to be super thin and always connected to the internet.

Microsoft has made some clever improvements to bring x86 app support to ARM chips. Windows-on-ARM PCs don’t have native support for x86 desktop applications. Instead, x86 apps are funneled through an abstraction layer and CPU emulator to run ARM chips.

Windows PCs with x86 chips typically run code natively on hardware, but the Windows on ARM PCs won’t be able to do that. A “dynamic binary translator” will look at chunks of x86 code, which a run-time will then translate to ARM64 code. The ARM64 code will be cached for subsequent use. Emulation can be slow and take up system resources, but Microsoft has developed tools to reduce overhead.

Then, it becomes a question of whether the Windows on ARM emulator can handle the massive graphics and CPU processing power required by Mixed Reality headsets and applications. Microsoft said x86 apps on ARM will be slightly slower than on Intel or AMD PCs.

But there are some possible ways to run Mixed Reality on ARM. Headsets could be connected to Windows on ARM PCs to view VR content in a browser or an app supporting the WebVR[4] specification. WebVR is an open standard and is supported by all major browsers and hardware including Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive headsets. Making Mixed Reality work may come down to whether any supporting headset is released for Windows 10 on ARM PCs.

PC makers are playing it safe with Windows-on-ARM PCs. Dell, Asus, and HP like the idea of a super-slim laptop with cellphone-like cellular connectivity to the internet. But they aren’t prematurely announcing hardware as a way to ensure these PCs aren’t the next coming of Windows RT, a 2012 OS for ARM-based tablets. Windows RT, based on Windows 8, failed because it didn’t run standard x86 applications.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook[5] page or our Twitter[6] feed.

References

  1. ^ video (channel9.msdn.com)
  2. ^ will require (www.pcworld.com)
  3. ^ two months ago (www.computerworld.com)
  4. ^ WebVR (channel9.msdn.com)
  5. ^ Facebook (www.facebook.com)
  6. ^ Twitter (twitter.com)
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HPE is bringing Optane storage to Unix servers

In the next year or two, Hewlett Packard Enterprise will add support for Intel Optane memory and storage to its latest Unix servers.
Optane is a new form of storage and memory that could replace today’s SSDs and DRAM. It is significantly faster and den…

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HPE offers an escape from the aging HP-UX OS via containers

Hewlett Packard Enterprises’ HP-UX OS has been around for more than 30 years, and users may be looking to move on from the Unix-based OS.

Now HPE is offering a way out of the ancient OS using containers, which are small buckets running instances of applications. The containers will be offered with the Linux OS.

HPE will provide containers to transition from conventional mainframe-style OSes to new hardware like x86-based Xeon servers. In this case, HPE is trying to get users to transition from Itanium chips.

Intel started shipping its last Itanium 9700 chips — codenamed Kittson — on Thursday. Correspondingly, HPE announced new Integrity i6 servers with the new chips. But the future of HP-UX servers is uncertain because Intel has no new Itanium chips beyond Kittson.

“We will enable customers to re-host their HP-UX workloads on Linux-based containers running on industry-standard x86 servers in the future,” said Jeff Kyle, director of product management for enterprise servers at HPE. 

The Integrity servers are known for their rock-solid stability, which made them attractive to large organizations in sectors like finance and retail. But moving away from Itanium to x86 is a big investment in hardware and software changes. Moreover, companies are hesitant to quickly change IT infrastructures because downtime could severely hurt their bottom line.

HPE is already making it easy to move from Itanium to x86 with a software tool and x86 servers with Itanium-like features. While newer x86 hardware can take on newer tasks like machine learning, HP-UX and Integrity were designed for old-school mainframe applications.

Exactly how the containers will work isn’t clear. It’ll likely pull HP-UX workload instances and put them in Linux as micro-services. Containers are different from virtualization, which require hypervisors, software tools, and system resources. Containers allow customers to maintain mixed HP-UX and Linux environments and make the transition smoother.

At the same time, Williams said HPE believes its HP-UX customers are important. HPE will continue to improve the Integrity i6 servers at the system- and the software-level, beyond just the processor.

“This includes periodic future integrations with the evolving Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) technology and continued software innovation via yearly update releases,” Williams said.

Servers based on Kittson also support the OpenVMS OS, which previously belonged to HP, but now is being maintained by VMS Software.

A key improvement in the Integrity i6 is its integration of 3Par all-flash storage. The servers, which are available through retailers, start at around US$14,500 for an entry level configuration.

References

  1. ^ QNAP TVS-882T NAS piles on the features (www.infoworld.com)
  2. ^ InfoWorld Daily newsletter (www.infoworld.com)
       
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