Over at MIT Technology Review, Tom Simonite writes that Hewlett-Packard’s ambitious plan to reinvent computing will begin with the release of a prototype operating system next year.
As reported here on insideHPC, HP’s research division is working to create a computer it calls The Machine, a computing architecture vision of the future. The Machine uses clusters of special-purpose cores, photonics links, and memristors to implement a unified memory that’s as fast as RAM yet stores data permanently, like a flash drive.
A working prototype of The Machine should be ready by 2016, says Kirk Bresniker, chief architect for The Machine. However, he wants researchers and programmers to get familiar with how it will work well before then. His team aims to complete an operating system designed for The Machine, called Linux++, in June 2015. Software that emulates the hardware design of The Machine and other tools will be released so that programmers can test their code against the new operating system. Linux++ is intended to ultimately be replaced by an operating system designed from scratch for The Machine, which HP calls Carbon. Programmers’ experiments with Linux++ will help people understand the project and aid HP’s progress, says Bresniker. He hopes to gain more clues about, for example, what types of software will benefit most from the new approach. The main difference between The Machine and conventional computers is that HP’s design will use a single kind of memory for both temporary and long-term data storage. Existing computers store their operating systems, programs, and files on either a hard disk drive or a flash drive. To run a program or load a document, data must be retrieved from the hard drive and loaded into a form of memory, called RAM, that is much faster but can’t store data very densely or keep hold of it when the power is turned off. HP plans to use a single kind of memory—in the form of memristors—for both long- and short-term data storage in The Machine. Not having to move data back and forth should deliver major power and time savings. Memristor memory also can retain data when powered off, should be faster than RAM, and promises to store more data than comparably sized hard drives today.
According to Bresniker, the first working chips for The Machine won’t be sent to HP partners until 2016 at the earliest.