[Beowulf] HP Labs sees ARM, Atom, memristors in server future

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Nov 29 07:32:28 PST 2012

(notice memristors have only 10^6 cycles write endurance, MRAM is effectively


HP Labs sees ARM, Atom, memristors in server future

Rick Merritt

11/28/2012 3:01 AM EST

SAN JOSE, Calif. – HP Labs continues to make progress on its long term vision
of smart memories based on its memristors as alternatives to server CPUs. The
devices are one of several new categories of chips likely to seize the moment
of disruptive changes in data center technologies and workloads ahead, said
an HP Labs researcher.

Separately, Hewlett-Packard Co. is expected to announce within weeks the next
steps in its Project Moonshot, its work on ARM- and Atom-based servers. HP is
working with a broad group of companies including processor providers AMD,
Applied Micro, Calxeda, Cavium and Intel on the project.

So far HP has announced an Atom-based server using Intel’s Centerton
processor. It suggested it would use cartridges to flexibly upgrade a single
server chassis for a wide range of ARM- and Atom-based chips in 2013 and

On a three-to-five year horizon, HP Labs is working on what it calls
"nanostores." The chips combine memristors and logic that could challenge
microprocessors in a new era of designs based on novel system architectures
and memory hierarchies, said Parthasarathy Ranganathan, an HP Labs researcher
in a keynote at the Server Design Summit here.

“We have the opportunity for new building block,” said Ranganathan. “It’s
really a 3-D stack amenable to traditional workloads and even more so to new
workloads, really changing the game with potentially a hundred-fold increase
in performance per watt."

HP Labs continues to conduct experiments on the nanostore concept with
promising results. But Ranganathan declined to provide any specifics, noting
the work is still as much as three years from commercial products.

Such devices could ride a confluence of multiple waves of change. “The
technology changes and workloads inflections ahead are incredibly interesting
for system design,” he said.

In computing, he noted processors made a “sharp right turn” in about 2005
when performance gains for single core processors plateaued and multicore
architectures took off.

In storage, disk drive capacity has outpaced data access times. DRAM capacity
growth has taken a “soft right turn” from traditional levels of 60 percent a
year to about 25 percent a year, he noted.

The rise of server SoCs and eventually 3-D stacks along with flash memory in
server designs could help breakthrough such bottlenecks. The changes come
about the same time that networking is shifting more deeply from copper to
optical links.

Separately, data growth is far outpacing Moore’s Law, driving new workloads.
The researcher noted a “growing complexity and dynamism of data access.”
Today’s searches increasingly involve accessing multiple real-time and static
databases as well as overlaid sources of personal and contextual information.

“Compared to a simple click, which once was just to a single Web server, we
now have very sophisticated data analysis from multiple repositories with
complex cross correlations,” he said. “It’s big data, but it’s also fast data
from multiple streams with deep analytics."

More information about the Beowulf mailing list