HP CEO and CTO talk about memristors, HP CTO confident of 100 Terabyte memristor drives by 2018

HP’s Discover event in Barcelona this week has focused heavily on its “new style of IT” mantra, which focuses on cloud computing, integrated data center offerings, and commercial PCs that try to bring the cool factor. But HP CEO Meg Whitman’s keynote Tuesday at the event offered a brief preview of where HP’s next “new style of IT” may be headed.

Taking a break from promoting the current lineup of HP Enterprise Group products, Whitman discussed a handful of technology areas where the company’s HP Lab is working on technologies the company feels will help shape technology in the future.

Up first, Moonshot cartridge servers are the only one of the innovations currently in-market today, but Whitman suggested HP has just tapped the surface of the high-density, low-power modular servers, saying that “no other company is taking on the data center the way were are.”

From there, Whitman moved into technologies that have not yet seen the light of the day, a high-performance, low-cost non-volatile memory technology called memristors, and its Photonics technology, which speed data transmission within an infrastructure by using fiber optics.

Previously, CTO Martin Fink suggested StoreServ arrays could be packed with 100TB Memristor drives come 2018.

In five years, according to Fink, DRAM and NAND scaling will hit a wall, limiting the maximum capacity of the technologies: process shrinks will come to a shuddering halt when the memories’ reliability drops off a cliff as a side effect of reducing the size of electronics on the silicon dies.

The HP answer to this scaling wall is Memristor, its flavour of resistive RAM technology that is supposed to have DRAM-like speed and better-than-NAND storage density. Fink claimed at an HP Discover event in Las Vegas that Memristor devices will be ready by the time flash NAND hits its limit in five years. He also showed off a Memristor wafer, adding that it could have a 1.5 PetaByte capacity by the end of the decade.

Today a 3PAR StoreServ 7450 enclosure can have 240 solid-state drives, supporting a maximum raw capacity of 96TB raw capacity using 400GB SSDs. Now imagine 240 100TB Memristor drives in such a box: that’s 24,000TB or 24PB.

On day one, Fink said in Las Vegas, Memristor density will be higher and speed faster than flash, but it won’t be as fast as DRAM. Over time its access latency will decrease, we’re assured. Memristor cells could be multi-layer, with two-bit-per-cell and three-bit-per-cell versions achievable, added Fink. He also claimed Memristor layers could be stacked, with four layers achievable and six possible.

Fink said Memristor could be a universal memory, replacing both DRAM and flash and hinted at specialised Moonshot cartridges, possibly using Memristor memory instead of DRAM, linked by terabit-class photonic connects to Memristor StoreServ arrays.

There is no firm date for the first HP memristor product launch.

Link to video of CTO Fink talking about memristors

With Photonics, HP aims to solve the inefficiencies of getting data out of storage, into memory, and back to storage again, and Whitman said HP has a roadmap for 6 TB per second transfer rates using the technology. And using memristors, HP says it should be able to store 100 TB on a drive by 2018.

“We’ll stay ahead of demand by changing the game” with the technologies, Whitman asserted.

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