Announced in June, a new HP technology path for the datacenter that is based on a new kind of computer memory called "memristors", was the subject of an analysis by the MIT Technology Review that appeared this week. The key seems to be whether or not HP can successfully manufacture the memristor-based memory in quantity, and in a timely fashion.
Working on getting the memristors produced since 2010, HP had originally announced there would be product available by 2013, but has now announced that the first working chips won't be sent to HP partners until 2016. The HP prototype system, called "The Machine", which will run an advanced version of Linux called Linux++, uses memristors as the only type of memory in the system, replacing both RAM and DRAM, as well as potentially replacing hard drives as they are used today.
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While physical prototypes of the machine aren't expected to be completed until 2016, HP is hoping that they will have completed the operating system design, as well as a software emulator and development tools, by mid-2015. This would allow developers to build applications and test code against the new operating system before the machines actual release.
So why does this matter? Well HP is claiming that their simulations of the new technology, using their blueprint for the design of a memristor-based computer, will result in a system that is only 10 percent of the size of an equivalent system using now standard technology, and, more importantly, will use only 1.25 percent of the energy required to run a system using standard memory and storage options.
Given that the cost of energy (acquiring, using, and dealing with the waste product) is the most significant part of a data center's operational budget, the potential of a technology that could reduce the energy consumption by over 98 percent is huge. While major players in the giant data center world, including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, having been releasing information on their own research and technologies that are being used to improve data center efficiency, those changes have, for the most part, been incremental. If they are able to commercially develop this technology, HP will have an exponential impact on the reduction of data center energy consumption and revolutionize the business.