Hewlett Packard Enterprise Just Showed Off Its Experimental Data Crunching ‘Machine’

November 29, 2016, 12:25 AM UTC
Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman Rings NYSE Opening Bell
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard, gives a television interivew on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after ringing the opening bell on November 2, 2015 in New York City. Hewlett Packard officially split into two companies, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, focused on businesses and HP, Inc, focused on consumers. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Companies are generating so much data these days that many are seeking new ways to crunch it, even beyond the capabilities of today’s computers.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Monday said that it built a prototype for a new type of computing as part of an ambitious research project called The Machine. The technology giant hopes that its research effort will revolutionize how computers are built so that they can more quickly process data.

“We have achieved a major milestone with The Machine research project—one of the largest and most complex research projects in our company’s history,” HPE executive vice president Antonio Neri said in a statement.

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HPE’s Machine research project involves a new type of computing design that would alter the way computer servers, a core HPE product line, are built. As detailed in the trade publication The Register, the Machine, unlike a traditional server, uses advanced photonics (the transmission of information via light) to help processors more quickly access data from memory chips.

Instead of focusing on processors that crunch data like traditional servers, the Machine has been built to focus on memory. But that shift means that HPE had to redesign how a server operates—including the chips that it uses, the construction, and the overall body, or chassis.

As HPE CEO Meg Whitman told Fortune’s Barb Darrow earlier this fall, The Machine, if successful, would allow for servers that are hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than today’s devices.

Currently, however, HPE’s Machine is still a research project and will probably not be released commercially in the near future. Eventually, HPE plans to use an experimental type of memory chip called a memristor in the Machine, but that won’t be anytime soon because that technology is still being developed, according to The Wall Street Journal. HPE’s current Machine prototype uses more conventional memory called DRAM, the report said.

Earlier this year, one of The Machine’s core project managers, Martin Fink, retired from HPE and his role as chief technology officer. At the time of Fink’s departure, many analysts speculated about what would become of HPE’s computing research project, given that the company merged its research unit Hewlett Packard Labs into its enterprise business.

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“The Machine has been a passion of Martin’s for nearly 10 years,” Whitman wrote in a corporate blog at the time. “The prototype will bring The Machine to life and serve as the capstone of Martin’s leadership.”

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