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Under the hood of HP’s future data center innovations


While you’re busy maintaining your IT infrastructure, HP researchers all over the world are hard at work creating future innovations. In five years’ time, your HP Converged Infrastructure will embed new technologies that HP Labs has developed. For instance, innovations like memristors—a replacement for memory chips—are in the works. So too is Diverter, which simplifies the creation of virtual networks.

Let’s peek at some of the innovations that could be in your enterprise in the next few years.

Memristors: HP Labs demonstrates the “missing link” in electronics

In 2010, HP Labs turned a 40-year-old theory into manufacturing reality. Working with Hynix, a memory chip maker, HP is manufacturing Resistance Random Access Memory (ReRAM) technology based on memristors (memory resistors).

Memristors are described as the "missing link" in electronics, after resistor, capacitor and inductor. In the near term, they could replace memory chips or even hard drives. Memristors are capable of performing calculations in the chips where data is stored rather than in a specialized central processing unit. They can store at least twice as much data in the same area as flash memory can now.

Watch Stan Williams, HP Senior Fellow, discuss memristors’ market impact. (01:31)

HP Labs researchers demonstrated the existence of memristors in 2006, 35 years after a UC Berkeley professor theorized their existence. The science journal Nature published HP's findings in 2008. A year later, HP Labs increased chip memory by four to eight times by stacking memristors. In April 2010, HP Labs proved memristors are capable of performing logic functions.

In five years, memristors could be used to create handheld devices that offer 10 times greater embedded memory than exists today. Memristors could power supercomputers, allowing applications such as genomic research to be done dramatically faster than Moore’s Law suggests.

Stan Williams, HP Labs Senior Fellow and Director of the Memristor Research Group.

Stan Williams, HP Labs
Senior Fellow
and Director of the
Memristor Research Group.

Energy-saving benefits

In addition to the storage power, Memristors could help converged infrastructures save energy. Memristors require less energy than present solid-state technologies. And because they don't 'forget', memristor-based computers could turn off and on like a light switch.

Memristors demonstrate how quickly an HP Labs research could transfer into a shippable product. New technologies typically take 15-20 years to get into the marketplace, explains Stan Williams, HP Senior Fellow and director of the Memristor Research Group at HP Labs. “We began this work in 2006, and we’re aspiring to have a product ready by 2013,” he says. “That’s only seven years. So we’re compressing a normal R&D timetable by a factor of two.”

Two HP Labs developments that are currently being implemented in products are M-Brokers and M-Channels. The software pair addresses siloed and uncoordinated management of multiple servers. They are expected to be available in 2011 as part of HP Insight Control software.

Coordinating power management

The pair provides a uniform basis for management across different system levels and domains. M-Channels provide the base communications mechanisms between management embedded in server hardware, virtual machines and applications. M-Brokers enable policy coordination across different management layers and solutions.

The result is a set of coordinated power management policies that operate across the hardware and software boundary. The pair ensures applications meet service-level agreements and enforce power caps. They also manage tasks such as storage backup, inventory and trust management.

M-Channels and M-Brokers were originally described in a paper co-written by researchers at HP Labs and Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Computing.

Improving throughput in cloud networks

Researchers at HP Labs in Bristol, U.K., are working on Diverter, which will simplify the process of building isolated virtual networks in very large cloud infrastructures. Diverter targets organizations offering highly flexible, large-scale, multi-tenanted environments. Diverter aims to help these businesses efficiently meet the different requirements of cloud customers on a single network infrastructure. It allows end-to-end communication between any endpoint with just a single network "hop."

In their 2009 paper, the researchers said their prototype achieved a 66 percent throughput improvement compared to alternative approaches.

In addition, there is ongoing research on scaling Ethernet networks in datacenters by using ensemble routing and smart path planning algorithms. This method exploits path redundancy in arbitrary datacenter network topologies.

HP is playing a key role in advancing network research testbeds at universities, including the US National Science Foundation funded GENI (Global Enterprise for Network Innovations) testbed. OpenFlow is a protocol proposed by researchers at Stanford and a few other universities to improve network programmability. The work is a building block in the GENI testbed.

Researchers at HP Labs, Palo Alto have implemented the OpenFlow protocol in HP network switches with extensions for quality of service (QoS) and easier deployment in production networks. This implementation is available on HP E3500, E5400 zl and E6600 series switches. In collaboration with HP Networking, the implementation is currently in use in over 30 organizations worldwide. HP Labs is conducting research to scale OpenFlow networks and design simpler network management mechanisms using OpenFlow.

OpenFlow experiments

HP switches with OpenFlow have been used in multiple demonstrations on the GENI testbed by many researchers from different universities. These demonstrations cover a range of topics. These include virtual machine migration for seamless multi-player gaming experience, network power management and dynamic rerouting around failures.

More future innovations

These are just some of the future innovations set to drive converged infrastructures in the next few years. Learn more about how HP Labs works with HP product engineers to turn innovations into products. Also, discover the innovations HP has contributed to industry standards organizations.