back to article Cutting Hewlett-Packard Labs down to size

When Martin Fink resigned from his positions at HPE in August 2016, the announcement said: "Martin Fink, our chief technology officer and head of Hewlett-Packard Labs, will be retiring from HPE at the end of the year, after more than 30 years with the company." He was retiring, we were told, but he was just 51. In Fink's time …

  1. boltar Silver badge

    How long....

    ... before both HPs slowly spiral down the toilet and get bought out and devoured by some other company, the HP name becoming little more than a memory just like DEC and Sun? I suspect not very long, 5 years, maybe 10 tops.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: How long....

      I'm waiting for some bright Sparc to reinvent the Alpha...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long....

      5 years maybe 10 tops, you could predict the same for pretty much any company given those time scales.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: How long....

      ... before both HPs slowly spiral down the toilet

      Why are you speaking as if that event is still to come?

    4. fredesmite Bronze badge

      Re: How long....

      To be fair - HP produces millions of x86 servers a year from Foxxconn - all cookie cutter Intel boxes that Dell and IBM produces in the buildings next store -- just in different colors and logos They are not going anywhere in the near future

  2. Jove Bronze badge

    Echoes what happened to BT Labs about 20 years ago - there was lots of great work going on, but a large portion of it was not aligned with the business.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I've never even heard of most of those memory thingies

    And odds on bet I won't be hearing of any of them ever again.

    I've never really thought of HP as one of the great corporate R&D labs but they did do some clever stuff in the HP instruments line, and the M68000 Unix running portable was pretty impressive.

    But the elephant in the room is that within a decade line widths will be down to 10 atoms wide, making the oxide layer 1 atom thick. I have no idea how this will be made.

    At that point you literally run out of road. Of course by then it will also likely be easier to make stuff by adding atoms together, rather than cutting atoms away...

    1. MondoMan

      Re: I've never even heard of most of those memory thingies

      HP Labs DID invent the thermal inkjet, which had some impact on HP's corporate trajectory :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've never even heard of most of those memory thingies

        They did, and like many things it was a simple observation by a techie who seems to have seen steam coming off a hot piece of silicon and wondered 'what if' . HP labs was, in its day, brilliant - and woefully misused post Lew Platt

        1. Mpeler

          Re: I've never even heard of most of those memory thingies

          You hit the nail right on the head. Carly "perception is reality" Fiorina eviscerated the Labs, and replaced them with an addendum to the HP Corporate logo that said "Invent". Having reduced Bill and Dave (Hewlett-Packard) to HP, she further insulted the true inventors and bearers of the "Bill and Dave legacy [in the original, positive sense]" by adding "Invent" to the logo and the site signage. As if they didn't know. Only a marketing twerp like her wouldn't know.

          HP's internal magazine, "Measure" had an article about Carly, showing a picture of her leading Lew around some of the sites like a whipped dog. It was heartbreaking, especially considering he was originally from the med side of things. Carly, heartless indeed.

          So the evisceration of the labs began LONG before Nit Witless &co.; it began with Carly. The breaking up of the company actually began on John Young's watch, though he was held back by Dave, and Bill.

          After Bill left the day-to-day operations, and Dave passed away (1996), all bets were pretty much off. 2001, when Bill passed away, was the end of the Real HP.

          HP Labs could never do the level of basic research that IBM did, simply because the company wasn't big enough to fund that level of research. Having said that, the labs did do an enormous amount of valuable research and product initiation, if not full development. Consider the ubiquitous touchscreen.

          The HP150 (and 2382 terminal) were the first real commercial examples of this technology, though they were a solution in search of a market. Disc caching (first seen in the PC world with WD discs)? "Two guys in a corner" with the HP7933XP. Pocket calculator? Bill Hewlett himself threw down a challenge that resulted in the HP pocket calculator. The list goes on and on.

          Sadly, the labs don't.

          HP has become "Hewlett Packaging", buying white-box hardware from often non-descript Chinese hardware vendors, with a smattering of Indian-developed software riding on that hardware. The labs, be they computer, medical, analytic (chromographs, HPLC, etc.), test & measurement, semiconductor design and assembly, etc., are all but gone now.

          So, Meggie &co. Now that you've squeezed the last dime out of what was once a great company, what are you going to do?????

          1. fredesmite Bronze badge

            Re: I've never even heard of most of those memory thingies

            HP hasn't " INVENTED " a single thing since Botax Queen and the dozen CEO that followed her wrecked it.

            1. doutdes

              Re: I've never even heard of most of those memory thingies


              That is another article from this same site, describing all that HPE does, excluding networking and storage.

  4. Joerg

    What a silly crusade against 3D XPoint is going on here...!

    What a silly crusade against 3D XPoint is going on here...!

    Seriously all this hate against Intel and Micron 3D XPoint technology is just pathetic.

    Why should anyone want ReRAM instead of 3D XPoint, uh?

    Why is ReRAM so much better?

    Both are not on the market yet. However Intel and Micron surely know what they are doing way more than other manufacturers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a silly crusade against 3D XPoint is going on here...!

      Why should anyone want XPoint instead of ReRAM? More to the point, why should anyone want XPoint instead of NAND? The latter has the economies of scale, the price, the density.

      So what if XPoint is a little faster? The market size for something "a little faster" than the fastest NAND is pretty small, it isn't anything like the massive market that awaited something "a helluva lot faster" than the fastest hard drive.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "less on blue-sky developments and more on things that have a foreseeable ROI."

    The phrase you were looking for is "short term". Bye-bye HP. Once you were great.

    1. theblackhand Silver badge


      ...HP Labs Blue sky has been grey for a long time.

      HP has given me resistors something like 15 years of development to get to "not commercially usable in the near future" in spite of the hype train pulling into the station a few times already. My understanding is the only products that have worked the way that has been stated cause degradation in the material used which reduces the number of available writes and the speed is lower than existing flash memory.

      As for Helion, how could a server manufacturer look at the existing hosting/cloud environment and see the drive towards commoditisation from 2009 onwards and try to enter the market in 2014? Was the thinking that the other hosting/cloud providers weren't able to afford the wonderful HP servers to make them more profitable or was it just a scam to boost server sales for exec bonuses?

      And "The Machine" - not sure it was ever more than a platform for memresistors (see above).

      The problem that I see for the historical enterprise server providers is that their high margin Unix business is gone - the customer base is only just big enough to pay for the next generation or two of research and they are no longer able to really innovate. Plus they keep wanting to re-invent the high margin server ignoring how well commodity hardware performs.

      The cloud providers (Google/AWS/Facebook and I suspect MS) all use custom hardware so don't need HP and co to help them. Plus they probably all do scale better than HP ever could.

      Is there hope for HPE? If they start to kill off Itanium and move customers to x86 (including migrating the software...) they could keep things going and might get a few more money years out of an innovative ARM server (I.e. The bigger ARMs with the ability to tie them to a decent amount of memory in blade server type form factors with very high scale) that would make a big difference in application caching and if HP developed software solutions around that they may keep the hardware sales going a little long enough to then see the transition from x86 to ARM.

      And maybe someone will notice something that will make real money in the meantime...

      1. fredesmite Bronze badge

        Re: But...

        ARM? I read Arm sales are in the toilet .. nifty idea but when there 200m Intel servers (with OS on them) in world I don't see Arm taking off.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But... google

        Google has enough money to manufacture their own hardware - Open Compute was a plafform to do that on

  6. SirWired 1

    Memristor, Photonics, and The Machine all MIA... shocker.

    How many years have we been hearing about the Memristor, and seeing absolutely no progress towards actually shipping?

    And I didn't know that HP Labs was even pursuing photonics, but Sun/Oracle has been promising those for a couple decades now, and has yet to deliver, so it doesn't surprise me that HP jumped on that particular vaporware bandwagon.

    Don't get me started on The Machine; it always seemed like a bunch of nebulous crap criminally light on details as to exactly what it was, other than something to do with memory-mapped I/O, which is not exactly a new innovation.

  7. luis river

    HPE fault dream?

    The management class visión of Marc Hurd is returning, extreme cuts R&D in HP labs is now, the management class visión de Leo Apotheker was reality on 1 nov 2015 (división HP), sucessfull boss HP labs Martin Fink is gone. I ask: HPE CEO Meg Whitman is one decorative management person?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP removed the "INVENT " logo a decade ago

    I forget WHICH CEO started using it, or when it disappeared, but HP inventions have disappeared. Essentially Foxconn engineers most of their servers (like they do for Dell ) copied from Intel reference schematics .. except for the last page where the iLo or iDrac components are added. Cookie cutter operations. Old custom BIOS teams have been replaced with Intel eufi people who simply copy + publish what Intel pushes out.

    HP couldn't even spin up a Cloud operation by cloning Debian packaging with Openstack. .

    I doubt you can many software developers there anymore .. all that work has been outsourced to India .

  9. TheManWithNoNameFromMarsWhoWritesRubbish

    No Photo Credits?

    The Register just steals photos? No credit, no nothing?

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: No Photo Credits?

      ??? This is a stock pic via Shutterstock, which we pay for.

  10. doutdes

    HPE is including NvRAM in Proliant servers

    The work in the machine is not forgotten, this transfer to make HPE Labs work closer with the servers business what reflects is a quicker implementation of new inventions into products that already exist, the market will see parts of the machine being implemented into other more common last generation servers. That looks to be the case of NvRAM in Proliant servers.

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