Announced at HP Discover this week, HP is going back to its roots as an inventive company by developing a futuristic computing device simply named: "The Machine." Of course, the name will probably change before official release, but HP has given itself 10 years to come up with it.
Based on an HP invention from 2008, The Machine will contain "memristors." Memristors are a combination of computing characteristics. They combine logic gates, storage, and processing. Development is still underway, but the intent is to release memristors in a DIMM format architecture as soon as 2016. Imagine a database that is stored, queried, and processed on the same component.
The Machine would house this new technology along with optical pathways and a brand new, HP developed operating system. The new design is an attempt to take a huge datacenter and shrink it into a single unit or even a single device.
On the surface, The Machine sounds like a futuristic fantasy, but HP is putting 75% of the HP Labs workforce behind the development.
It's been a while since a hardware company has developed its own architecture. If you remember, IBM was busy attempting to sell the industry on its own computing technologies in the 1990's. IBM, of course, had the Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) which supplied its PS/2 computer line. The proprietary MCA was expensive and difficult to work with and the explosion of lower cost computers with the ISA bus pretty much eliminated IBM's market. Some pieces that MCA introduced still exist today such as the PS/2 connector for keyboards and mice.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" - George Santayana, 1863 –1952
And, that's potentially what could happen to HP's new architecture. The Machine could be the most monumental discovery in a long time, but as we've seen all down through computing history, it's rarely the first that lasts. Like IBM's MCA, pieces of HP's invention may carry on but the entirety will most likely be improved by others, duplicated, and then offered cheaper.