HP’s Machine – The Future of Computing?

By NE Docs | June 19, 2014

Electrons compute. Photons communicate. Ions store. No – these are not notes from your middle school science class. These three short statements are a generalized summary of HP’s newest piece of technology in the works – The Machine.

It was at this year’s Discover 2014 event that Martin Fink, Chief Technology Officer at HP, revealed their plans for the next big thing in the world of computing. According to Martin, “It’s not just a server, it’s not a laptop, it’s not a tablet, it’s not a phone. It’s actually all of those things.”

This new technology is being designed to handle incredible amounts of data, potentially allowing us to actualize the Internet of Things – a concept of future networking in which all objects, gadgets, tools, etc. can be connected to the internet and be able to identify themselves to other objects. What does this mean for information management? How about technology as we know it?

Should HP make good on its promise and create The Machine they spoke of – we will witness a paradigm shift in computing as we know it. According to Martin, using photonics The Machine can handle 160 petabytes of data in a mere 250 nanoseconds. To put this into perspective – one petabyte (PB) is equal to 1,048,576 gigabytes. The various applications of this technology will have tremendous impact, revolutionizing healthcare, business processes, information management, big data analysis, and much more. Imagine, if doctors could share information across the world in real-time, without any breach of patient confidentiality? Being able to securely transmit data instantaneously across the globe would have a monumental influence on how we provide and improve healthcare. With that type of power, it is not hard to imagine how your own business processes might be affected.

How “The Machine” Works

In order to better understand how The Machine works – Martin has broken this technology down into three main categories of innovation. These three features include specialized processing cores, photonics, and atomic storage.

Specialized Focus Cores (Processing):

The Machine seeks to reduce energy requirements while boosting system speed. In order to accomplish this – they have implemented clusters of specialized cores instead of generalized processors. They then connect these individual cores with silicon photonics, which promote faster speeds and less energy consumption. These specialized cores allow for the system to focus the “work” being done – using only the cores required to accomplish a task. This further allows the system to reserve power and maximize efficiency. By customizing hardware, HP will be able to directly affect the cost/energy curve.


Technology benefits of the machineBy using light instead of electrons through copper wires, HP hopes to further push the speed capabilities of The Machine. As stated before, The Machine is able to address 160 petabytes of data in under 250 nanoseconds! Also, photonics could potentially dissolve current technology design constraints by eliminating pitfalls such as signal integrity and cross processor communications. It would also be beneficial to note that The Machine is also loaded with memristor technology – which are resistors capable of storing information even after a power loss.

Ion Storage:

Perhaps the most interesting feature of The Machine is its ion storage. Using oxygen molecules, HP is able to add or remove 2 electrons to create an ion. That unbalance is what allows them to store data at the atomic level. The Machine is able to switch between 0 and 1 in the picosecond range (that is one millionth of one millionth of a second) and requires no energy (just like Flash) to maintain that state over time – further contributing to The Machine’s significant reduction in power usage and data storage capabilities.

In short:

Breakdown of HPs The Machine

So what could The Machine do for document management? How about technology as we know it? The Machine will help “streamline”…well….everything. From your phone (which could be outfitted with 100 terabytes of memory) to business processes – The Machine could completely change the world of technology as we know it…..or…..

…it could be just another step towards that goal. See for yourself in Martin Fink’s video from Discover 2014.


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