Long before HP merged
with Compaq, their research labs were well acquainted -- as
Researchers in the two companies had blazed technology trails
in enabling faster, more economical computers via RISC architecture
and developing advanced handheld and wireless devices, and
they'd raced to reach such milestones as connecting to the
ARPAnet, the precursor to the Internet.
"These are the people we used to compete with and who used
to give us heartburn every year," says Dick Lampman, senior
vice president of research and director of HP
Labs, the company's central research organization. "The idea
that we're on the same team now, pulling together, is exciting."
moving forward faster
With the added capabilities of about 100 Compaq researchers,
HP Labs is putting its
brainpower behind future digital imaging and printing, next-generation
computer systems, and software and solutions to simplify building
and managing the emerging information infrastructure.
"It's an exciting opportunity to strengthen HP's research
labs with these people, their ideas and talents," Lampman
says. "The bottom line is that we will be better able to move
our key research programs forward faster."
The Compaq team brings particular expertise in computer systems
and information management (including fault-tolerant and nonstop
computing) and handhelds. It also brings a lesser-known asset:
experience in bioinformatics.
With the merger, HP became the leading provider
of computing equipment to the fast-growing bioinformatics
field. HP Labs bioinformatics research
is in its formative stages, with some ongoing genomic research.
By integrating with a Compaq team working in this area, the
project gains "a jump start," Lampman says.
taking research in new directions
Former Compaq scientists expect their research to benefit
from joining an organization with the technological breadth
of HP Labs, which ranges from
color science to computer architecture to nanotechnology.
Rich Zippel, director of the Cambridge Research Lab, anticipates
collaborations that will deepen his team's research and take
it in new directions.
"It gives us a virtual size much larger than our real size,"
says Zippel. "We feel we're part of a much bigger organization
that's pulling together."
mobile services and searchable multimedia
Zippel's team is exploring ways to add capabilities to handheld
devices, including voice or video conferencing and roaming
across several physical networks. The ultimate aim:
to free people from wired connections to the Internet so they
can wander freely in the world and use their resources wherever
That melds with the HP Labs' Cooltown vision
to integrate the physical and virtual worlds. Researchers
are inventing technologies to create a responsive world of
mobile services, with devices that react differently according
to who's using them, in what environment and for what purpose.
The Cambridge team is also working to extend the capabilities
of their Speechbot technology, http://speechbot.research.compaq.com
the first Web site for spoken audio content. It indexes more
than 15,000 hours of searchable video and audio content, including
White House speeches and popular radio talk shows like "The
Connection." Researchers hope to add images and additional
video, with the goal of allowing easy access, navigation and
organization of vast repositories of multimedia content.
future NonStop products
The Enterprise Systems and Data Management lab, also formerly
of Compaq, focuses on research strategic to future NonStop
products. In particular, the lab has concentrated on improving
performance of ultra large-scale parallel databases and on
technology to support enterprise application integration and
business process orchestration.
The goal: to enhance the unique capabilities of the Nonstop
database with active event management to position it as a
real-time messaging hub for business process integration within
and across enterprises. Researchers have worked to build a
high-performance, scalable, transactional message engine,
which receives, transforms, stores, enriches and delivers
events from publishers to subscribers, using NonStop SQL as
a message store, a reliable messaging protocol and XML as
new opportunities for collaboration
One of the lab's current projects involves technologies to
make it possible to use information in previously unanticipated
ways. Researchers hope to do that by achieving the semantic
integration of varied information sources within and across
Rivka Ladin, director of the Haifa, Israel-based lab, says
joining HP provides the opportunity to tackle more complex
"This opens up a wider range of possible problems for us
to work on as well as opportunities for collaboration with
a wider range of potential customers for technologies that
we develop," she says. "We're excited about being able to
have an impact on the company."
contributors to Alta Vista
One of the best-known of the Compaq labs to join HP is the
18-year-old Systems Research Center (SRC, pronounced "circ,")
which developed the indexing technology behind the AltaVista
search engine, the first to index every word on a page and
provide word-based retrieval of relevant pages.
Now re-christened "SRC Classic" the lab joined with the Information
Dynamics Laboratory into a new and more diverse SRC. This
new center is exploring the design and implementation of novel
information systems, which will include modeling and simulating
these systems to perfect design and improve performance.
visualization tools, handheld security and more
"Our charter has always been to do important work in computer
science that also has an impact on the company," says Lyle
Ramshaw, who manages SRC Classic.
Ramshaw says the team is working to let private networks
handle more traffic by cleverly routing some packets over
the Internet; to speed up inner loops of critical programs
by using theorem-proving techniques to generate near-optimal
machine code for those loops; to help biologists visualize
and compare the huge trees of genetic data; and to enhance
the security of handhelds by keeping owners' private date
on a surrogate computer.
Western Research Lab (WRL, pronounced "whirl") the oldest
of the four former Compaq labs, was founded in 1982 to pursue
RISC computing. Their Titan computer provided the foundations
that led to the landmark Alpha chip family.
"Our overall philosophy is hire people who have a breadth
of knowledge and interests and have also demonstrated the
ability to go deep in some particular area," says Bill Hamburgen,
acting director of WRL. "We work at the edges of conventional
approaches to problems, and aim to recognize where paradigm
shifts are possible."
improving server performance and reliability
One of the team's current projects is exploring how to use
power-management capabilities researchers developed for handheld
computers to manage power for servers in large data centers.
That work complements ongoing research
in HP Labs on the growing
problem of heat generation and energy use in increasingly
powerful microprocessors and data centers.
Other WRL projects include improving enterprise-class server
performance and reliability, increasing runtime in mobile
systems and enabling mutually immersive telepresence, as well
as investigations into network performance and protocols.
history of technical achievements
In addition to current research expertise, the Compaq labs
bring to HP an impressive
history of technological contribution that encompasses achievements
from Digital Equipment Corp. (acquired by Compaq in 1998)
and Tandem (acquired by Compaq in 1997).
Among the invention milestones:
- the Itsy, the first pocket computer with desktop performance.
The Itsy inspired the highly successful iPAQ handheld computer.
- Personal Jukebox, the first portable MP3 player with an
on-board hard disk that provided 50 times the storage capacity
of other models of its day.
- important contributions to the Nonstop server platform
(developed at Tandem), which runs ultra-demanding jobs such
as the New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo stock exchanges,
and Bank of America's automated-teller machine network.
- first widespread application of Linux on a PDA, including
the iPAQ and Jornada, and continued open source coordination
- first multi-media search technology for the Web
- Palo Alto Internet
Exchange, the first successful neutral, commercial Internet
exchange in the United States, had its roots in WRL.
- pioneering work in chip multiprocessing (the Alpha-based
Piranha design put eight CPUs on a single chip).
By Jamie Beckett