HPE is going to unleash a Machine on us. Here's how it might play out

The decomposable infrastructure endpoint and our route into its gaping maw


Comment At the far end of HPE's storage and compute strategy is the Machine, the dynamically composable infrastructure thing with separately scalable compute, memory/storage and networking resources.

It has a huge flat and persistent memory space using storage-class memory (SCM). It was supposed to use memristors, but since that technology is still five years or more away, HPE has a strategic arrangement with SanDisk for the two to use SanDisk resistive RAM (ReRAM) technology, which is a future persistent memory technology under development by SanDisk and not yet commercially available – nor announced.

The implication is that SanDisk ReRAM lags Intel/Micron's 3D Xpoint memory which is supposed to become available in Optane product later this year. Potential Xpoint users such as Plexistor are testing the technology now.

How will we progress from current HPE servers and StoreServ flash storage to Machine 1 (SanDisk) and Machine 2 (Memristor)?

Currently, HPE ProLiant servers use DAS flash (directly-attached SSDs) and shared external StoreServ arrays.

HP_Machine_node_board_mockup

HPE Machine node board mockup (from sister pub The Next Platform).

We could see a way to go from ProLiant/StoreServ in these stages:

  • NVMe SSDs used by StoreServ
  • NVMe flash drives; SSD or PCIe, used by ProLiants
  • Initial SCM softrware layer developed
  • NVMe ReRAM drives used by ProLiants
  • SCM software layer extended for ReRAM drives
  • NVMe RERAM drives and NVMe Fabric connects used by StoreServ
  • ProLiants use Silicon Photonic interconnects
  • Machine 1 debuts with Photonic interconnect linking pools of compute (CPUs) and SCM (ReRAM) and networking resource in dynamically composable server infrastructure
  • Machine 2 debuts with Photonic interconnect linking pools of compute (CPUs) and SCM (Memristor) and networking resource in dynamically composable server infrastructure

In this scheme HPE does not use Xpoint technology.

Here is a conceptual diagram of the machine from our sister publication, The Next Platform;

Machine_component_diagram

Machine component diagram

Conceptually a multi-core and probably multi-CPU system-on-chip (SOC) unit talks to local DRAM (with eight DIMM slots). It uses a fabric switch (NVMeF and Silicon Photonics?) to talk to pool of persistent memory (ReRAM or Memristor) through media controllers. There is an optical adapter to talk to other Machine nodes or other systems.

The processing complex could use ARM or x86 CPUs, and the processors have caches between themselves and DRAM and persistent memory. Data in these caches has to be written (flushed) to persistent memory for it to persist. Thus low-level system code has to do this and check that it’s been completed via some form of acknowledgement. And high-level code needs to trigger cache flushes when data that needs to be persisted is written into a cache, or know that this is being done.

It’s IO, in other words, only blindingly faster than IO to DAS, and it has to be managed.

HPE will be providing a number of APIs that make this the case, and that’s part of the system software changes needed with storage class memory and the Machine

Can we deduce or infer anything about timescales?

Here is potential time staging, calculated by The Register's Digital Realisation Emerging Analysis Machination bureau (DREAM):

  • 2016 - NVMe SSDs used by StoreServ
  • 2016 - NVMe flash drives; SSD or PCIe, used by ProLiants
  • 2016 - Initial SCM softrware layer developed
  • 2017 - NVMe ReRAM drives used by ProLiants
  • 2017 - SCM software layer extended for ReRAM drives
  • 2017 - NVMe RERAM drives and NVMe Fabric connects used by StoreServ
  • 2018 - ProLiants use Silicon Photonic interconnects
  • 2019- Machine 1 debuts with Photonic interconnect linking pools of compute (CPUs) and SCM (ReRAM) and networking resource in dynamically composable server infrastructure
  • 2021 - Machine 2 debuts with Photonic interconnect linking pools of compute (CPUs) and SCM (Memristor) and networking resource in dynamically composable server infrastructure

Humour apart, there are two profoundly unknown variables here: the time for SanDisk to come up with productised ReRAM drives; and the time for HPE and its fab partner(s) to produce productised Memristor drives.

It could be that SanDisk, pre-occupied and distracted by its WD acquisition and subsequent integration into that company's HGST-managed flash businesses, which are already facing their own integration process, takes several years to devise and produce its own ReRAM drives.

This could encourage HPE to use 3D Xpoint drives as a stopgap, a step which we think it doesn't want to take. Having control if its own SCM destiny would look far more attactive than being just another XPoint channel for Intel, and so being in Intel commodity hardware competition hell for SCM as well as DRAM and CPUs. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022