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Industry News

IBM Makes Headway in Phase Change Memory

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IBM Makes Headway in Phase Change Memory

IBM steps closer towards achieving the dream of combined datacentre memory and storage as it figures out a means of storing 3 bits in a single Phase Change Memory (PCM) cell, 50% more than the two-bit version last seen in 2011.

PCM combines memory and storage through chalcogenide, a glass-like metal alloy able to change between 2 stable states-- amorphous (without a clearly defined structure) and crystalline (with structure)-- through the application of heat. The technology is actually similar to re-writable Blu-ray Discs, with each state showing either low or high electrical conductivity. The result is able to store data when switched off (unlike DRAM), and is able to respond to data requests in less than 1 microsecond.

However exploiting such properties for universal memory is difficult, and requires sophisticated technologies with names cuh as "drift-immune cell-state metrics" and "drift-tolerant coding and detection schemes." Which is why IBM's managing to store 3 bits per cell within a 64K is a breakthrough, even more so when the device can handle 1 million endurance cycles.

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Gartner: Server Virtualisation Reaching its Peak

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Gartner: Server Virtualisation Reaching its Peak

Gartner forecasts the global x86 server virtualisation market will reach $5.6 billion in 2016-- a 5.7% increase, even if the analyst points out new software licenses are down for the first time since the market became mainstream.

Maintenance revenue is now chief growth driver, an indication of a rapidly maturing software market segment. Further pointing out such maturity are "many" organisations with a server virtualisation penetration rate exceeding 75%.

VMware still dominates the market, with Microsoft following as a mainstream contender in enterprise use. The market also sees a number of niche players, such as Citrix, Oracle and Red Hat, in addition to an "explosion" of vendors in the domestic China market.

Server virtualisation remains the most common infrastructure platform for x86 OS workloads in on-premises data centres, but Gartner points out new computing styles and approaches-- including OS container-based virtualisation and cloud computing-- will be "increasingly significant" for the market.

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Judge Decides: Staples-Office Depot Merger No More

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Judge Decides: Staples-Office Depot Merger No More

The $6.3 billion Staples-Office Depot acquisition is no more-- a federal judge agrees with objections raised by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and brings the merger to an end, saying it would create an unrivaled giant.

"There is a reasonable probability that the proposed merger will substantially impair competition in the sale and distribution of consumable office supplies to large business-to-business customers,” US district judge Emmet Sullivan writes in a 3-page order.

In turn, Office Depot states “while we are respectful of the Court’s decision to grant the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent our merger with Staples, we are disappointed by this outcome and strongly believe that a merger would have benefited all of our customers in the long term."

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EC Bets Big on Quantum Computing

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EC Bets Big on Quantum Computing

The European Commission announces a €1 billion investment in the development of quantum technologies-- with applications ranging from secure networks to ultra-precise gravity sensors and clocks.

Set to kick off in 2018, the quantum research research is similar in scale to a pair of ongoing European flagship programs, the Graphene Flagship and the Human Brain Project. It will receive funding from both the EC and other European and national funders, and has the the aim to "place Europe at the forefront of the second quantum revolution, bringing transformative advances to science, industry and society."

One of the inspiration behind the project is a 2015 "Quantum Manifesto" urging for a large-scale initiative in the field. Quantum computing promises to bring about huge gains in performance, but actually realising the dream remains a challenge.

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A Neural Network Inside a Stick

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A Neural Network Inside a Stick

Silicon Valley chip maker Movidius presents what amounts to a supercomputer inside a USB stick-- the Fathom Neural Compute Stick, a device the company describes as "the world's first embedded neural network accelerator."

Neural networks are used for sophisticated computing tasks, such as identifying and analysing objects or the mapping of 3D spaces for augmented or mixed reality navigation. Movidius is a specialist in the field, being the company behind the technology allowing the DJI Phantom 4 drone to avoid collisions.

The technology in question is the Movidius Myriad 2 MA2450 chip-- and it is the same found inside the Fathom stick (as paired with 512MB of LPDDR3 RAM). How did Movidius manage to boil down a neural network in such a small package? The answer lies in architecture designed specifically for running the aforementioned environmental analysis tasks at under 1W of power. However, one has to keep in mind the stick can do nothing else.

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