Hewlett-Packard’s New Machine

Larry Page was recently outed in terms of his attempts to build a flying car with a couple of startups and the enormous $100 million worth of cash he’s invested. However, in the media tumult that the story created, a perhaps more significant and less pie-in-the-sky step was taken towards real developmental change in the tech industry.

Just over a week ago, Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced its decision to open-source the plans for The Machine, its most notable research project in history. The Machine is an attempt to reinvent the architecture underlying basically all computers built by old tech firms over the past six decades; the new design involves a switch to a memory-driven computing architecture.

Martin Fink announces The Machine project at HP Discover 2014, Las Vegas, USA

HP’s decision to open source the designs its come up with so far represent an effort to spur development and excitement regarding its fledgling, and rather ambitious project. HP hopes to aid in the development of the components of The Machine from the ground up by bringing in open source developers early in the software development cycle; perhaps the more eyes they get on their new machine now, the smoother it will run in the future.

For the time being, it’s probably a little early to call whether HP’s move will be enormously significant in the longterm or a last-ditch effort that ultimately fails to spur the project into existence.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, explained that The Machine is “not a commercial platform or solution. As such, I’m not sure how many commercial independent software developers outside of close HPE partners will want to spend time on it.”

“IBM’s decision to open source its Power processor architecture has attracted a sizable number of developers, silicon manufacturers and system builders,” King continued. “It would not surprise me if HPE found some inspiration in OpenPOWER’s success.”

It’s important to note that the open source community is unlikely to be able to lend much of its efforts or insights until The Machine is more widely available and at a more reasonable price. According to Rod Cope, CTO of Rogue Wave Software, “The broader community will wait and see how powerful it is. Over time, however, there is no doubt that it will enable entirely different kinds of databases, proxies, security scanners and the like.”

the machine2Cope went on to explain that issues such as virus scanning, static code analysis, detecting the use of open source software, and grand challenges like simulating the brain and understanding the human genome will be changed forever by massive amounts of persistent memory and high bandwidth in-machine communication.

“Large project communities around Hadoop and related technologies will swarm on the potential game-changing capabilities,” he predicted. “This will be a big win for HPE and competitors working on similar solutions.”

King went on to state that any new computing architecture must face a fair amount of hurdles in terms of attracting industry supporters and interested customers. That means that if HPE’s efforts are going to be a success, they’re going to end up lowering substantially many of the barriers that The Machine is likely to encounter on the market.

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