The latest major changes at Hewlett Packard Enterprise this week put a spotlight back onto The Machine, a bold move to reimagine data center architecture.
In a post on the company blog, HPE CEO Meg Whitman announced some executive changes that involved in large part who will oversee the development of The Machine, an ambitious effort to build a machine with new technologies and which is being designed to handle the massive amounts of data that will be generated through such trends as the cloud, data analytics, the proliferation of mobile devices and the Internet of things (IoT).
The Machine was announced two years ago, and longtime HPE veteran Martin Fink—the company’s CTO and head of HP Labs—has been the key driver behind the system’s development and roadmap. In her blog post, Whitman announced that Fink will retire at the end of this year after 30 years with the company and that HP Labs will be folded into HPE’s Enterprise Group, which is headed by Executive Vice President and General Manager Antonio Neri.
According to the CEO, having HP Labs more closely tied with HPE’s enterprise business will make it easier for the company to create ways to get some of the new technologies being developed for The Machine—including silicon photonics, custom processors, a new operating system and the advanced memristor memory technology—into other systems.
“This move will also help align our R&D work on The Machine with the business—particularly how we integrate key components like photonics and memristor into existing product lines—by bringing together our innovation roadmap with our business roadmap,” she wrote.
HPE officials last year announced that the company would have a prototype of The Machine ready later in 2016, a timeframe that Whitman said is still on schedule. She noted that “The Machine has been a passion of Martin’s for nearly 10 years. The prototype will bring The Machine to life and serve as the capstone of Martin’s leadership.”
At the company’s Discover 2016 show last month, HPE officials announced a plan to get open-source developers to start writing software for The Machine, even though the system won’t be available for several years. The plan included creating The Machine community page on GitHub for developers and rolling out the first developer tools, with the intention of adding more in the coming months.
Company officials have said The Machine will fundamentally change the architecture that computing—from smartphones to data center infrastructure to supercomputers—has been based on for six decades, shifting more of the focus away from processors and toward memory. HPE reportedly will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop The Machine, which will be about the size of a refrigerator, but will be able to do the work of an entire data center.
Also leaving at the end of the year will be John Hinshaw, the company’s chief customer officer. Hinshaw was brought on last year to run Hewlett-Packard’s technology and operations unit. After the HP split in two in November 2015—creating two companies, HPE for enterprise solutions and services and HP Inc., which sells PCs and printers—Hinshaw was named chief customer officer and was in charge of some large accounts and strategic alliances as well as IT, cyber-security and customer advocacy.
HPE’s IT and cyber-security groups will be run by Chief Operating Officer Chris Hsu, Whitman wrote.
In addition, the company is creating a single, global sales organization and centralizing product marketing, e-commerce and customer advocacy into a single marketing organization.
The executive moves and business realignment continue a time of changes for HPE. Not only is the company still working out the kinks following the breakup late last year, officials in May announced that it was spinning out its enterprise services business as a separate entity and merging it with IT consultancy Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC). The decision helped lead to the new announcements, Whitman wrote.
“In addition to making HPE more competitive—with faster growth, higher margins and stronger free cash flow—the move also provided a unique opportunity for us to reimagine our internal organization,” she wrote.