HP CTO Fink: HP Helion Cloud, 'The Machine' On Tap To Revolutionize IT

HP CTO Martin Fink and a mockup of 'The Machine'

Hewlett-Packard is committed to developing OpenStack-based clouds and a new hardware platform called, for now, "The Machine," as a way to meet customers' burgeoning requirements for easy-to-use and flexible data center solutions.

That's the word from Martin Fink, HP CTO, executive vice president and head of HP's Advanced Research Labs, who outlined his vision for flexible, automated data center infrastructures during a keynote presentation at the Nth Symposium, held this week in Anaheim, Calif.

Fink, speaking before a crowd of current and potential customers of Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider and HP channel partner that sponsored the event, said most potential users of cloud technology expect their clouds to automatically scale, automatically repair themselves and offer fault tolerance.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: HP CTO Martin Fink On HP's Helion Global Open Network Vs. Cisco Global Intercloud]

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"And another thing customers want -- they want it cheaper," he said. "We don't like that part."

Given the heavy reliance IT already places on such open source technologies as the Linux operating system, Apache web servers and WordPress content management systems, it is only natural to choose open source as the base for cloud development, and that means OpenStack, Fink said.

HP's new Helion distributed cloud computing solution brings customers the benefits of open source, including open standards, application portability, flexibility and lower cost, all with the full support of HP and its partners, Fink said.

"The idea of saying, 'Hey, Mr. Customers, you can go to openstack.org and download the requirements, and, 'Hey, you can deploy it yourself' is not a very good conversation starter," he said.

Helion definitely will be open for partners, said Rich Baldwin, Nth Generation's CIO and chief strategy officer.

HP Helion is a new major brand from HP that brings together all HP's top cloud initiatives, including the HP Cloud and the company's Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service technologies, Baldwin told CRN. "The software HP is developing facilitates the hybrid cloud model," he said.

Baldwin said he was impressed when Fink brought another HP employee on the stage to demonstrate how quickly one could build services using HP Helion.

"The demo we saw was pretty basic," he said. "But what went on behind the scenes was impressive. He said he could make 10 instances of WordPress, and immediately had them ready. That's the technology customers need to get to production quickly."

HP Helion OpenStack cloud technology comes in two versions, Fink said.

NEXT: The Two Editions Of Helion OpenStack

The first is a community edition from the pure open source world, which is available immediately for free downloading without HP support and is suitable for proof-of-concept deployment.

The second is the enterprise edition with full high-availability, fault tolerance, scalability and other enterprise features, he said.

HP Helion can be deployed as a private cloud behind a corporate firewall; as a public cloud, allowing users to pay for it as needed; or as a hosted solution that customers or HP can run, Fink said.

"HP Helion is all about delivering an OpenStack cloud, and deploying it in whatever way the customer wants," he said.

Unless a customer only wants a cloud, HP Helion is the first step in a longer-term deployment that includes ensuring that applications work optimally in cloud environments, Fink said.

"If you want to get all the features of the cloud ... you have to take it to the next level and rethink your applications," he said.

For instance, Fink said, customers do not care if the entity providing the cloud runs out of resources, and developers should not have to think about freezing applications to upgrade or restart a cloud. "That's not the cloud," he said. "The cloud is, a new app just shows up on your device."

Toward that end, Fink also introduced the HP Helion Development Platform, which targets developers looking to introduce new applications born ready for the cloud. Those applications can be built with a choice of development language, and have access to all the services to ensure "applications will magically appear without the need to know about the underlying infrastructure," he said.

Fink also talked about the new HP Helion Network, an ecosystem of multiple partners, including service providers and technology providers like Intel and AT&T, that gives customers a global portfolio of services to build secure cloud solutions, Fink said.

HP is in the process of establishing the HP Helion Network, but it will eventually give customers a fast global footprint from which to provide services, he said.

"For those who say, '[HP's] global cloud is not as big as other public clouds,' well, we have a global footprint," he said.

To build scalable clouds of the kind envisioned with HP Helion will require new technology that will break through the scalability issues of current data center technology, Fink said.

NEXT: HP's 'The Machine' Could Change The Face Of Computing

To that end, he told the Nth Symposium audience about 'The Machine,' a new way of building computers being developed by HP that will feature photonic instead of electrical connections between components, as well as the ability to move ions instead of electrons to scale storage.

The Machine will get rid of the distinction between memory, I/O and storage by collapsing flash storage, DRAM and SRAM into a single memory pool using memristor universal memory technology, which Fink introduced at last year's Nth Symposium.

That will also require the development of new operating systems that no longer need to shuffle data between different types of memory, which can consume up to 80 percent of a computer's operation, Fink said.

That's where photonics come in, he said. Using photonics, HP will eventually be able to deliver 6 TBps of throughput using almost no energy with a single fibre cable, compared to a maximum of 6 GBps today over a handful of cables, he said. "We need to have a technology that transmits data at extreme speed, but which uses almost no power," he said.

Fink admitted that the name "The Machine" is the kind of name an engineer, not a marketing expert, would come up with. "The reason we named it 'The Machine' is we didn't want to call it a phone or a computer," he said. "We want it to be generic."

The speed and power Fink described is impressive, Baldwin said.

"From the 1960s to the 1970s, we went from core memory to DRAM," he said. "But memristor is a huge change beyond DRAM. And the move from copper to photonics -- we have been using the same technology for decades. It's time to change."

The Machine shows that HP is a leader in the development of future IT technology, Baldwin said. "There's not a lot of companies as big as HP innovating like that," he said. "Most of the innovators are startups. But HP is innovating. And Martin is the right person to lead the change."

Nth Generation CTO Dan Molina told CRN that while Fink last year told attendees of the Nth Symposium about memristor and other technologies now being touted as part of The Machine, he presented a much more complete vision this year.

Molina said he likes the flexibility promised by The Machine. "It's supposed to come in many different form factors, such as a device that fits inside every airplane to collect data," he said. "We're seeing a step towards the Internet of Things. The bottom line is, it will make computing so much more efficient."