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May 20, 2015

Discovering HP's Futures

In a couple of weeks HP computer users will gather for an annual conference in North America. For the past five years, the meeting has been called HP Discover. This year's event is promising to show off visions of the future. Pictures of stalwart enterprise community members will be harder to find.

Computer historyAmong the HP technologies developed as computing environments, only HP's Unix will have a Special Interest Group Forum at the June 2-4 conference. Searching the sessions database for the letters VMS -- pretty special to the Digital customers that HP preferred to serve futures to versus 3000 sites -- yields no hits. If VMS is being discussed at HP Discover, it's likely to be just a topic on the floor.

Stromasys will be on that floor, talking about several platforms whose HP futures have already or will soon enough expire. Charon HPA, emulating the HP 3000 hardware, as well as virtualization products for the Digital systems and even Sun's Solaris computers will be demonstrated. Sarah Smith of Stromasys says it's a regular stop in the company's itinerary.

"At the booth we'll be doing demos of Charon," she said. "We've been going for years. VAX, Alpha, and PDP were all DEC products, so we talk about all of them at Discover."

Meanwhile, HP will be talking about many commodity solutions along with The Machine, its project to deliver six times more power than current computer systems on 1.25 percent of the energy. Its big idea is universal memory, driven by the elusive memristor HP first began discussing in 2008. Universal memory is as inexpensive as DRAM, as speedy as static RAM, as non-volatile as flash memory, and infinitely durable. The Machine is an HP Labs project reputed to have requisitioned 75 percent of the Labs' resources. Its delivery date is far enough out in the future that hearing about its potential is still just about all anybody expects this year, or next.

The HP North American shows were once all about users, and then after awhile, all about the products the vendor had delivered and were in use in the field. The HP 3000 slipped out of the session list at HP Discover around 2010, and now the VMS platform hasn't qualified for as much time as The Machine. The conference does gather a nice sheaf of customers to go along with a thicket of HP staff. Even before the show was renamed from the HP Tech Forum, it had tilted toward sales-to-customer events with more than a few NDAs to keep out the riff-raff.

HP Innovation Brought to Life in Film will tell attendees they can "Get a glimpse into some of the revolutionary technologies HP is tackling that address the most complex challenges and opportunities for our customers and our society in the next decade and beyond." There's not much point in setting out session times for an hour on something like improving performance of an HP-specific database, because by now such a thing has dropped off HP's discovery map. That's 20th Century computing, anyway.

But despite the habit of eschewing topics like VMS, MPE, and other HP legacy creations, the company hasn't lost its taste for invention altogether. A panel of HP Labs researchers will offer "a closer look at what it takes to make The Machine change everything we know about computing. This radical new approach will fuse memory and storage, flatten data hierarchies, bring processing closer to data, embed security throughout the hardware and software stacks and enable management of the system at scale."

There was a time when HP's chalk talk about such a product would only have emerged when the product shipped, or at least was priced. When the first HP 3000 Spectrum systems -- the PA-RISC emulated by Charon -- slipped into release, the HP Journal ran tech articles on how they were breaking ground. Aiming at a high bar like "changing everything we know about computing" sounds a lot like a concept film of the 1980s or 1990s HP. Great fun, but perhaps not as immediately useful as the networking within a SIG Forum. At least HP-UX still has that much to count upon in two weeks' time.

09:37 PM in News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink

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