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Displaying articles for: August 2010

HP and Hynix - Bringing the memristor to market in next-generation memory

memristor_small.jpgToday, HP announced a joint development agreement with Hynix Semiconductor Inc., to develop a new kind of computer memory – one that will employ memristor technology pioneered by researchers at HP Labs.


This memory, called ReRAM, holds the potential to surpass Flash in terms of affordability, total capacity, speed, energy efficiency, and endurance.


And its potential doesn’t stop there.  “We believe that the memristor is a universal memory technology that over time could replace Flash, DRAM, and even hard drives,” says Stan Williams, HP Senior Fellow and founding Director of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab (IQSL).


But what is a memristor and how might it change the evolution of information technology?


A short history on memristor

Previous to the prediction of the memristor by Prof. Leon Chua of UC Berkeley in 1971, there were three recognized passive circuit elements:  the resistor, capacitor, and inductor.  These three passive elements have provided the fundamental building blocks on which all electronic circuits today are based.


HP’s demonstration that so-called ReRAM (resistive-RAM) devices were actually memristors provided the mathematical foundation for completely new types of electronics.


What is “Flash memory”?

Flash is a type of solid-state storage commonly used in mobile phones, mp3 players, and some laptops (among other devices).


What is ReRAM?

The agreement between HP and Hynix will see them jointly developing memristor technology in the form of Resistive Random Access Memory (ReRAM).  ReRAM is a non-volatile memory built using materials that change resistance when a voltage is applied across them.


“People have been attempting to make resistive memory for a long time,” explains Williams. “But because they didn’t understand that the devices they had were memristors, they weren’t making good progress.  Once you understand the mathematical framework for memristors, you can design circuits that perform the way they are intended to perform.”


What will be the first device using memristors?

In the near term, the most obvious application for memristor technology is as a replacement for Flash memory.  “Memristor memory chips promise to run at least ten times faster and use ten times less power than an equivalent Flash memory chip,” says Williams.


Experiments in his lab also suggest that memristor memory can be erased and written over many more times than flash memory.  And on top of that, says Williams, “we believe we can create memristor ReRAM products that, at any price point, will have twice the capacity of flash memory.”


What does this mean for my laptop or smartphone?

Memristors can retain information even when the power is off and are highly energy efficient. This means that your laptop could boot up much faster and last longer on one charge since it consumes less energy.  Given the number and sophistication of apps running on smartphones, this should also significantly extend the usable time between charges.


In the future, because both compute and memory functions could be conducted within the same chip, this also means that laptops and smartphones could be much thinner and much faster than they are now. (Why? Because data have less distance to travel since memory and logic are performed on the same chip).

How does this benefit HP and open industry standards?

“Almost every product offered by HP uses memory in some fashion:  PC’s, phones, printers, servers, storage, networking and so on,” notes Williams.  He suggests that the company can use its unique insight into memristor to bring highly differentiated products to market before its rivals.


At the same time, says Williams, HP isn’t planning to become a memory chip maker itself, or to restrict the licensing of its memristor technology.


“Our long term goal,” he explains, “is to see this technology spread through the entire IT ecosystem.”

What is the advantage of memristors?

Laboratory trials conducted at HP Labs have shown that memristor ReRAM circuits require less energy to operate, are faster, and have higher endurance than Flash, and these advantages are anticipated to increase into the future.


Since memristors are based on a thin film technology, the memory elements can be easily stacked on top of each other, and thus more bits can be built onto a single chip.  They also are virtually immune to interference from ionizing radiation – making them attractive for inclusion in ever-smaller but ever-more-powerful devices.


Still, the memristor is a relatively recent discovery and new properties are yet to be found. 


Research from the HP Labs IQSL team published earlier this year showed that, in addition to acting as memory devices, memristors can also perform logic functions. This suggests that computation might eventually be performed where data is stored, something that could result in computers running significantly faster than at present since data will not have to be passed around among multiple chips.


Are there potential future uses for memristors in ”artificial intelligence”?

Memristors fundamentally operate in a similar fashion as the biological synapses in the human brain.


One potential application of memristor technology would be an 'artificial synapse' in a circuit designed for analog computation.  Professor Leon Chua at the University of Berkeley, who first postulated the memristor in 1971, is currently pursuing research in this area.


“Professor Chua himself pointed out the connection between the properties of his proposed memristor and those of a synapse in his earliest papers,” says Stan Williams, HP Senior Fellow and Director of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab, HP Labs. “We also think that this is a very interesting and potentially valuable research direction.”


HP’s research has revived Chua’s own interest in memristors. He was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue the application of memristor technology in artificial intelligence and neural computing.



Additional resources

H.P. Reports Big Advance in Memory Chip Design,” by John Markoff, The New York Times, May 1, 2008 


H.P. Sees a Revolution in Memory Chip,” by John Markoff, The New York Times, April 7, 2010.


Memristor images on Flickr

Labels: HP labs| memristor

Update on previously announced settlement with U.S. Dept. of Justice

489iFAFC23B07698FA1DThis afternoon, we've seen stories in the news reporting that HP is paying the Department of Justice $55 million as part of a settlement agreement.


We thought we would clarify what this is.  In fact, this is the finalization of a settlement in principle that was previously announced by HP on August 2, 2010


At that time, HP also reported that it expected a negative impact of approximately 2 cents on third quarter fiscal year 2010 earnings per share.  This was again reported in the company’s earnings announcement on August 19, 2010.


As we stated during the original announcement, HP denies engaging in any illegal conduct in connection with these matters.  We believe it’s in the best interest of our stakeholders to resolve the matter and move beyond this issue.

Labels: statement

Journalists Test the Limits of Publishing With HP MagCloud

longshot_cover.jpgWith the publishing industry in a state of uncertainty, one trend is offering a glimmer of hope: collaborative publishing.


This past weekend, a group of editors (from publications like Wired and The Atlantic), challenged themselves once again to create a magazine in just two days, first by issuing a 24-hour call for content – essays, reporting, pictures, graphics, etc. – around a specific theme and then giving themselves 24 hours to collaborate, compile, and deliver the final product.  The theme ("Comeback") was issued publicly Friday and the group met their deadline yesterday, resulting in Issue One of Longshot Magazine.


How is this all possible? 


Publishing is one industry where HP aims to leverage new technologies to transform how people access, share and consume information.  HP MagCloud, the self-publishing web service developed in HP Labs, is the tool bringing Longshot Magazine to life.


Using the MagCloud platform, Longshot Magazine editors Mathew Honan, Alexis Madrigal, and Sarah Rich, are able to develop a professional quality print publication and make it available to anyone in print the moment it is uploaded at the price of their choosing.  This print-on-demand fulfillment capability just isn’t possible with traditional print.


Together, Longshot Magazine and MagCloud are changing the way ideas, stories, and images find their way into people’s hands in a printed magazine format. This is the group’s second effort, after making Issue Zero over one weekend in May…for which more than 8,000 people signed up, 1,500 submissions came in, and 35 editors ultimately selected 70 pieces to fill a 60-page magazine.  Issue Zero garnered significant media praise and even took home a Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism.


Longshot Magazine is now available in print here. HP also recently released a free MagCloud iPad app, which offers a browsable magazine store, a rich issue-viewing experience, and a “Buy in Print” button that enables readers to buy any available digital magazine in print, including Longshot. Get it here.

Labels: Collaboration

Changing the Healthcare Equation: editorial from Shane Robison in The Daily Beast

With billions of bytes created online every day, it’s hard to believe that (in the U.S.) 25 percent of medical claims and 65 percent of medical records are still paper based.


As HP’s Shane Robison rightly notes in an article for the Daily Beast, “Making a real difference in health care is not about expensive new technologies like robots performing surgery or treatments and unnecessary tests. It’s about getting the right information to the right place at the right time.”


In fact, what we already know could be the cure.  Robison provides two great examples of information technology improving the healthcare system:


1.  For Arkansas BreastCare, H-P helped to set up an automated enrollment process that worked in conjunction with the state’s Medicaid program.  Through the IT installation, Arkansas was able to bring early detection to more women across the state, ultimately helping 17,000 uninsured and under-insured women gain access to early detection, resources, and treatment.


2. Similarly, St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway is now fully digitally integrated, from bedside to billing. Doctors and nurses with mobile devices have access to patient information on-the-go, capturing and sharing vital patient data, such as X-rays and lab results seamlessly – St. Olav’s is truly at the forefront of 21st century health care.


Shane concludes, “Information is the greatest resource available to us in the 21st century. With the right technology, we can harness the power of information to find a different answer for the way people live, the way businesses operate, and the way the world works.”


You can expect to hear about more Healthcare 2.0 developments from HP, so stay tuned.  In fact, we'll be attending the MIT/Stanford vLab event "mHealth: Jailbreaking Health Care" with experts from HP Labs on Tuesday, September 21, 2010.  Get your ticket now and join us!

Photo credit: Doc Searls

Mike Salfity joins HP as IPG CTO

mike_salfity.JPGHP’s Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) continues to launch revolutionary printing solutions like ePrint that empower HP customers to express themselves in new and exciting ways.  This level of innovation, and the people and passion behind it, are what differentiate IPG and HP in the marketplace.


We are pleased to announce that Mike Salfity will be joining HP as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of IPG effective September 1.  As IPG CTO, Mike will work with the Imaging Technology Platforms organization to oversee long range technical strategy, and research and development for IPG.

Commercializing sensor networks and the “Internet of Things”


Top technology blog Read/Write Web has been one of the most proactive and prolific sources of information about “the Internet of Things”, which (broadly defined) describes the increasing proliferation of network-connected devices and sensors.


Today, editor Richard MacManus published a piece titled “Three Sensor Data Platforms to Watch.”  The post (and the rest of R/WW’s coverage in this area) is recommended reading for any technology enthusiast or industry watcher.


(Update 9/14/10: GigaOM adds to the conversation in "Sensor Networks Top Social Networks for Big Data")


Richard rightly notes that much work in the space is “experimentation”, adding, “it’s still very early in this area.”  However, HP’s collaboration with Shell is worth bringing to the discussion because it is a particularly large-scale commercialization of the broad portfolio of technologies required to bring this vision to life.


If you’re unfamiliar with this collaboration, here’s a quick FAQ and some video to get you up to speed:


What are HP and Shell doing together?

HP and Shell will use their complementary knowledge and experience to produce a groundbreaking solution to sense, collect and store geophysical data.  The solution promises to help the oil company avoid the environmental impact of drilling unnecessary wells thanks to previously unattainble high-resolution data gleaned from a wireless seismic imaging network.


What’s unique about the technology?

IMG_0326.JPGThe Shell system underscores the uniqueness and importance of HP’s broad portfolio.  The new sensing technology represents a breakthrough in nano-sensing research and uses the fluidic MEMS technology codeveloped over the past 25 years by HP Labs - the company’s central research arm - and the company’s Imaging and Print Group.

It will be delivered by HP Enterprise Services and uses HP ProCurve networking products along with HP storage, computation and software products.


The system also encompasses a one-million node wireless network.


What does this collaboration mean for future sensor network applications?

Dr. Peter Hartwell, HP Labs (excerpted from the video below):


“…we’ve been able to use [this opportunity] to kind of pull the technology out of the lab, get involved with our business units, create this whole new system around CeNSE, which, as we develop this and you push things forward, and you work on the cost and size and power requirements, we’ll be able to…get towards actually doing a trillion sensors a lot of applications that are much more important to measuring our impact on the Earth.”



Why hasn’t this been done before?

HP Senior Fellow and nanotechnology pioneer Stan Williams (excerpted from the video below):


“The problem is that in this area there are no standards…when you get a bunch of [suppliers] in the room talking about the system, first of all everyone’s worried about intellectual property.  They don’t want to share.  So the fact of the matter is when somebody tries to bolt a system like that together it turns out to be a pretty unworkable Frankenstein’s monster.”


“Whereas at HP, we’re actually doing this soup to nuts.  We’re vertically integrated throughout the entire stack in terms of being able to deliver this solution.”



What about privacy and security?

Read this post about HP's research into the privacy and security challenges of sensor networks.


Where can I get more information?

Try this post focused on HP Labs accelerometer sensor or read the presentation below

Sensor networks: the challenge of security and privacy


Sensor networks like CeNSE are enormously complex and can cover huge geographic areas.  They also span a wide range of applications that can require radically different overall design solutions.


That means that different CeNSE-type networks will also face very different issues of security and privacy, says Bill Horne, a Princeton-based research manager in HP’s Systems Security Lab.


“A network, for example, that consists of stakes that get stuffed in the ground with mini computers sitting on top,” he says, “will face very different vulnerabilities from one where you have microscopic, mobile sensors that get spread out over a big, constantly shifting area.”


However , says Horne, the same process can be applied to addressing the vulnerabilities of each.


Anticipating threats

“What you need to do is build a threat model,” Horne explains.  These are designed to address security concerns from three main perspectives:


1. Confidentiality – to make sure data is kept private

2. Integrity – to make sure no one can change or corrupt the data being collected

3. Availability – to make sure people can't launch attacks (such as Denial of Service attacks) that bring down whatever is important to make the system run.


A threat model also imagines who might want to inflict damage upon a system. Such people could be competitors, angry employees, or locals wanting to steal devices for parts. 


But in many cases, says Horne, “your most troublesome adversary will be nature.  If you're creating a network out in the middle of the desert, say, and it's 140 degrees and you've got animals running around and wind and sand storms, those are going to be the main threats to the integrity of your system.”


New technological challenges

Running a threat model will often identify issues that can be addressed with existing solutions.  But Horne expects CeNSE networks to expose a number of new research challenges, too.


“One issue that has already popped up,” he says, “is low-powered cryptography.”


Conserving battery power is a huge concern with remotely-located sensors. And yet the data they transmit will often need to be encrypted for security reasons, which is typically a computationally intensive activity.  “So whether you can design new kinds of crypto algorithms that are power sensitive,” says Horne, “is a whole interesting research field.”


The intersection of privacy and security

While CeNSE-type networks need their own integrity, they also raise issues of privacy for people who are moving about within their orbit.


“Privacy is essentially another confidentiality issue,” says Horne, “only what you care about here is the confidentiality of a third party.” 


Such concerns can be identified through building a threat model and to some degree mitigated by good system design.  But in the end, says Horne, “it's largely a policy issue; in the sense that people need to know that they have some rights relating to their data and to understanding how it is being used and how it's being shared with other people.”


The OECD, he notes, has established Privacy Principles that define the rights citizens should have to their own data. From HP's perspective , says Horne, “for any application, we would take a very close look at how we're handing personally identifiable information and make sure that we're doing the responsible thing with that information.”


[Editor's note: for more on HP's research into privacy and cloud computing, read this post about EnCoRe]


Putting it all together

Addressing issues of security and privacy in any complex system is hard, adds Horne, and easy to get it wrong.


“Sensor networks are not just a single set of computers,” he notes.  “It’s the sensor network, the communication network, the data centers,  the people involved.  And then all the different stakeholders that come into play each bring different security problems to the table.”


But HP has a centralized privacy organization, he notes, and a services arm with an established expertise in addressing security across the IT landscape.


“It's a complex problem,” says Horne, “and you need a company with the breadth of expertise that you find at HP to do it right.”

HP Proposes to Acquire 3PAR for $24 per Share in Cash

(Updated below with excerpts from 6am PT conference call with financial analysts)


HP today announced that it has submitted to 3PAR Inc. (NYSE: PAR) a proposal to acquire all of the outstanding shares of 3PAR for $24.00 per share in cash, or an enterprise value of $1.6 billion.


The proposed transaction represents a 33.3 percent premium above the price proposed by Dell Inc. HP’s proposal is not subject to any financing contingency and has been approved by HP’s board of directors. Once approved by 3PAR’s board, HP expects the transaction to close by the end of the calendar year.


The addition of 3PAR’s next-generation storage architecture will accelerate HP’s winning Converged Infrastructure strategy, which provides customers with an unmatched portfolio of intellectual property across storage, server and networking solutions. 3PAR’s highly scalable storage systems will further strengthen HP’s ability to deliver the highest levels of performance, efficiency and reliability to customers worldwide. The combination will bolster HP’s storage offerings and diversify its portfolio across key growth markets.


Read the rest of the announcement and disclosures relating to solicitation and forward-looking statements.


Investor webcast: Transcript

Read the transcript of the August 23, 2010 conference call with investors on HP's investor relations website.


Transcript excerpts

All responses attributable to Dave Donatelli, EVP and GM of HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking Business.




On due diligence and HP’s M&A acumen: 

...we have done our work on this deal and know this company well. We have the highest respect for the management team and skilled employees, and 3PAR's culture of innovation closely mirrors ours. We intend to invest in the Company's technology, helping it to bring new capabilities to market at an even faster pace. We are confident in our ability to seamlessly execute and integrate this acquisition as we've done many times before with other companies.


On the potential for more bids:

We think we have a superior offer here and we look forward to the response.


On the business case for the deal:

 …we have a very strong internal business case around this asset. We believe that this is an opportunity for us again to grow revenue and grow it at a very nice margin, which drives that business case.


…if you look at 3Com, which was our networking acquisition we did in this same space, just since closing that in April we have over 300 proof-of-concepts already underway. And I think it's a great analogy for this transaction in that if you find a good technology, what a lot of these smaller independent companies have a problem of is that customers want to buy from fewer larger companies that they trust and that have global support for them…


From my perspective the 3PAR transaction is very similar. This is a company that has good technology but does not have the ability to bring it to market. We can bring it to market directly, we can bring it through our channel partners, we can bring it through our services group. And that gives us the ability to scale this asset quite rapidly.


[Editor's note: read more about HP Networking's success with 3com in the transcript to an August 19, 2010 conference call with investors]

Labels: Financial| hpq
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