In electronics, there is a constant demand to make devices smaller, faster, and cheaper. But as design is scaled down, the resulting circuits and systems do not behave as precisely as they should.
Last week, Professor Rajesh K. Gupta offered a solution to Boston University’s Electrical & Computer Engineering community.
“Changing the way software interacts with hardware is the best hope we have for recovering the advantages of process scaling,” said Gupta, “but creating a new design and manufacturing regime is easier said than done.”
The Chair of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, Gupta spoke as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings prominent, innovative engineers to the university. He spoke on the topic, “The Variability Expeditions: Exploring the Software Stack for Under-Designed Computing Machines.”
Gupta, who previously worked for Intel, said that hardware has very rigid specifications right now.
“This makes life very difficult for hardware designers,” said Gupta.
Engineers design for worst-case scenarios rather than what the hardware will actually be used for, and this results in overdesigned parts. On average, Gupta said overdesign can result in 40% more chip area and require 35% more power.
Gupta is researching how much ‘under-design’ the engineers can get away with in software that proactively probes hardware for its telltale signatures. He said that there are a number of projects rethinking the relationship between hardware and software, but it will take some time and partnerships to make it work.
“In order for this to work, you need the industry to work with you,” he said. He and his team continue to look for engagements with the industry, and more information can be found on the Expeditions website at http://variability.org.
The next Distinguished Lecture will take place Wednesday, February 16, and feature Dr. Nick Bowen, Vice President of Software Appliances at IBM. He will speak on the topic, “Technology Disruptions and Trends: The Next Decade” at 4 p.m. in room 211 of 8 Saint Mary’s St.
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)