Currently, everything on the Internet, including this article you’re reading, is at the mercy of the functioning of data centers. These are enormous ranks of machines, one on top of the other, handling enormous amounts of data and memory. And Hewlett Packard wants you to rip them all out and replace them with one computer, roughly the size of your fridge.
Enter The Machine
Called, completely seriously and not a little ominously, “The Machine”, it’s essentially what happens when Hewlett Packard combines all the cutting-edge technologies it’s been working on into one giant device. Keep in mind that we’re not talking about your basic computer chip, here; HP is working with gnarly stuff like memristors and other technologies you can’t find in your laptop just yet. The result might be a new kind of computer architecture.
Vast Galactic Power, Teeny Little Living Space
As to how they can cram what amounts to dozens of modern industrial computers into a space the size of your fridge, there are two technologies we know about. The first is data photonics, which essentially means transferring data with light instead of using wires. That’s important because it removes resistance from the equation, and it makes data transfer as fast as reading the light. The other is the “memristor”, which is best explained with an analogy. You know how, with a normal light switch, you can flip the light on or off? That’s the circuits in your computer. A memristor is like a dimmer switch; it can remember the current flowing through it.
The Machine Rules All
There are some issues, here. The Machine is going to run a custom OS, and that’s not going to make everyone happy. On the other hand, the idea of a vast data center being stuffed into a closet somewhere is a lot more appealing once you look at the cost of these things, so the Machine will have an enthusiastic audience.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.