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EP/K026399/1 - M3: Managing Many-Cores for the Masses

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Dr TM Jones EP/K026399/1 - M3: Managing Many-Cores for the Masses

Fellow - Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge

Scheme

EPSRC Fellowship

Research Areas

Microelectronics Design Microelectronics Design

Start Date

04/2013

End Date

03/2018

Value

£1,212,276

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Grant Description

Summary and Description of the grant

Since the invention of the microprocessor in the early 1970s, information and communication technologies have rapidly improved almost all aspects of our daily lives. Unrelenting growth in computing power has been the enabler for significant scientific advances and transformed our society in the way we work, play and interact with each other. Fundamentally, this has been achieved through continuous strides in semiconductor technology, repeatedly doubling the number of transistors available on a chip every 18 months (famously known as Moore's Law). At the same time, Dennard scaling ensured that overall chip power and area stayed constant, allowing computer architects to design more and more elaborate processors to take advantage of the increased transistor counts and provide faster and faster systems.

All this was performed transparently to the programmer, who simply had to switch to a new processor to make his applications run faster. There was no need to rewrite or modify parts of the program, or worry about the characteristics of the underlying platform. There was, in effect, a contract between the hardware and software, whereby the architect would provide more advanced systems and the programmer would concentrate on producing more sophisticated and innovative applications.

Serendipitous transistor scaling couldn't last forever though, and in the early part of this century we hit the "power wall". Transistors could no longer be made smaller yet achieve the same power efficiency gains as in previous technology generations. In response, industry switched to multicore designs, aiming to continue performance increases through thread-level parallelism. This, in effect, broke the contract, requiring software writers to create programs with an eye on performance, as well as functionality. Although there are some application domains that can benefit from this parallelism (e.g. games), there is little evidence that developers have risen to the challenge of writing multi-threaded code and even when they do, the runtime environment doesn't necessarily allow their threads to actually be executed in parallel.

The failure of Dennard scaling means that many-core chips are the logical next step. However, it also means that the energy problem will not decline, and key industry figures warn of "dark silicon" when we have abundant transistors on chip but lack the ability to power them all on at once. We may soon find that significant parts of each multicore chip must be turned off, due to power limitations. Added to this, as transistors shrink they become more susceptible to manufacturing variability, wearout and in-field faults, decreasing their reliability and shortening the lifespan of the systems they construct. Unless we take drastic action, this convergence of challenges could seriously undermine our ability to continue advancing the systems that have revolutionised our lives.

This fellowship is a step towards meeting these challenges by reinstating the hardware / software contract, allowing the system to deal with each issue and leaving the application developer free to continue innovating. It will bring together a world-class research team that will investigate a variety of holistic schemes to achieve this aim based on automatic parallelisation, heterogeneous architectures and optical networks-on-chip, directly tackling the challenges laid out in the EPSRC cross-ICT priority of Many-Core Architectures and Concurrency in Distributed and Embedded Systems.

Structured Data / Microdata


Grant Event Details:
Name: M3: Managing Many-Cores for the Masses - EP/K026399/1
Start Date: 2013-04-01T00:00:00+00:00
End Date: 2018-03-31T00:00:00+00:00

Organization: University of Cambridge

Description: Since the invention of the microprocessor in the early 1970s, information and communication technologies have rapidly improved almost all aspects of our daily lives. Unrelenting growth in computing power has been the enabler for significant scientific adv ...