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What's 'The Future of Computing'?

By Oonagh Reidy | Monday | 05/08/2013

It'll be all about storage and power usage, says HP Labs CTO

Martin Fink, CTO and Director HP Labs, has laid out the future of computing. 

Speaking at the NTh Symposium in California last week, HP Labs CTO predicts data and power usage will be the big issues of the future in IT,  according to US reports. 

Computers have not changed much since the 1950's, the only difference is everything is now virtualised, he says. 

But new technologies in storage, power consumption are about to change computer architecture as we know it.  

HP Project Moonshot
"So for 60-plus years, we have been doing computing the very same way. We have the CPU. It does the basic math. We have some main memory. And we have some sort of IO, which is typically storage, and eventually became a lot of networking. 

"And when we virtualize it, we've basically recreated the exact same thing in virtual form."

HP Labs is the PC giant's innovation hub, which anticipates future IT trends. Seeing as HP missed the mobile revolution, it has now gone hard into R&D and enterprise solutions. This is set to be driven further by CEO Meg Whitman. 

With the onslaught of 'big data' at enterprise level, its not even about petabyes anymore, Fink says his team started thinking "thinking at the exabyte range" when trying to solve future data needs. (An EB is equivalent to 1 billion gigabytes0.

He also predicted power usage by IT, computers will be a major issue of the future, with cloud data expanding possibilities. 

"If we actually took the cloud and called it a country, on a power consumption basis, the cloud would be the fifth-largest country in the world. ... And, we are barely scratching the surface of the amount of data that's going to come at us."

Fink also referred to technologies including HP's Project Moonshot server which runs off mobile technology, saving rakes of power. The Hp.com website is now powered on the equivalent power of 12 60-watt bulbs, he said. 

Fink also branded copper cables as 'energy-sucking devil' and reckon "we will use 16,000 times less energy per bit to process [data] by moving from pure copper-based systems to photonics-enabled systems."  

IT energy consumption is an issue we need to look "holistically" he warns, and avoid placing blame on someone else. 

"Why don't we start thinking about the problem in terms of how we stop using energy in the first place." 

HP Labs CTO also spoke of how the industry is breaking away from conventional memory solutions, to new technologies such as PCRAM and memristor, as a replacement for Flash, SSD, DRAM and SRAM. 

Development of memristor is currently under development by teams including Hewlett-Packard, SK Hynix and HRL Laboratories.

In October 2011, HP Labs announced the commercial availability of memristor technology within 18 months, but remains to be seen. 

"The power requirement for memristor is almost nothing, yet it will scale to a couple petabytes of capacity in a few years," he said. 

"We can achieve levels of scale that are much more significant than we can reach with flash or DRAM."

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