The Machine

Chips will be talking with one another using photonics. Credit: HP

Last June HP has publicly announced, and unveiled, "The Machine" a radically new computing architecture based on three fundamental components: electrons for processing, photons for communications and ions for storage.

You can watch the full presentation here. It is a half an hour talk but it is worth listening to.   You can also see the basics of "the Machine" in the short clip at the end of this post, created by HP.

The reason why I am publishing such an "old" news (it is months ago!!!) is because of some thinking I have started in the areas of Internet of Things for a talk I am supposed to give in January in Mumbai.

The Machine has several components that are quite a leap although you can find each of them in several research works of the past five years and even some commercial implementation (like photonics communications between chips in a blade). Probably the most disruptive one, and yet to be implemented, is the creation of a storage/memory based on oxygen ions (an oxygen atoms that has been stripped of two of its electrons (there are 6 electrons on the external orbit of an oxygen atom). According to HP this ions based memory will be extremely dense (you use just one atoms to store a bit, whereas now you use over a thousands atoms) and most important able to operate at very low power budget.

What I remembered from watching that presentation was a very short passage where HP presented a vision where the "cloud" is no longer a repository of data (or services/processing capability) rather an gigantic interconnected leaving the data at the edges. In this vision what we understand today as the Cloud will actually be moving to the myriad of devices, "things" that will own data as well as the capability for processing them locally. Notice that this goes beyond the idea of "fog" that is more about the acknowledgment that the data and processing present at the edges will need to considered as part of the Cloud.

This vision of HP (that can only be sustained by a communications infrastructure that has, virtually, unlimited capacity and unlimited speed) is radically different. 

Of course you will never have "unlimited" capacity nor "unlimited" speed but in many cases you can live with "limited" as long as it is more than enough. 

We perceive a world were events can occur at the same time and this is because we perceive the existence of an infinite speed connecting two events. This is not true, although it took Einstein to make the point, and as such you don't have two events occurring at the same time in absolute, but only in relation to a specific observer (that's what the theory of special relativity is all about). We also live, as living beings, in a world of finite processing capacity (our cells) and yet the processing capacity of the cells is (in most cases) quite enough to let us live as a single organism, although made up by billions of individual processing machines.

IoT may, at least in some instances, be a first implementation of this architecture where the data and processing is local and distributed and the Cloud is the indexing infrastructure.

I find these ideas fascinating, growing in the fading space between technology and philosophy.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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