Euro strategy targets next-gen embedded systems

January 31, 2019

nitind-January 31, 2019

LONDON — The European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation (HiPEAC) presented a strategy for Europe to remain competitive in addressing next generation embedded systems as part of its Vision 2019 report at its 14th conference on the future of computing last week in Valencia, Spain.

With most European semiconductor manufacturers not going into sub-10nm technology, Europe has an opportunity to exploit more mature technology nodes while continuing to research post-CMOS technologies and alternative, non-von Neumann architectures to address higher performance and efficiency as computing becomes ever more pervasive in all aspects of society, especially with the growth of machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to the report.

The HiPEAC Vision 2019 report says the end of computing as we know it represents an opportunity for Europe to steer the development of future systems that would respect the planet and humanity. It’s not going to be possible to continually shrink components while increasing performance, so accelerators need to be developed for specific application domains as the short-term route to performance gains, while researchers investigate new paradigms such as neuromorphic and quantum computing — which will complement, rather than replace, silicon semiconductor technology.

Modern computing systems now consist of multiple heterogeneous cores and memories programmed in a multitude of programming languages. The end of Dennard scaling points towards more heterogeneity at both the hardware and the software level.

The current approach to managing this increased complexity — adding layers of abstraction — has reached its limit, due to the inefficiency introduced by each additional layer and the lack of global optimization, according to the report. Even if complexity reductions are achieved with local optimizations, these will be seized upon to build even more complex systems.

The only way forward is to find practical and efficient solutions to deal with the increasing complexity. This includes automating the design of hardware platforms using AI-related techniques (the Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) from Darpa is considered a step in that direction) and making use of open-source designs that are easily amenable to adaptation. Open source solutions enable the code — including the code generating hardware — to be inspected for bugs by a large community, which helps builds trust and democratizes access to and creation of new system solutions.

This smarter way of working would involve defining and allowing the reuse, integration and orchestration of white, black and grey boxes in a coherent way and with enough guarantees (security, reliability, bug-free). At the hardware level, a library of silicon blocks (chiplets) with a shared interfacing method could be developed, transposing the approach of printed circuit board and components to the micro-scale using interposers — the new PCB — and chiplets.

A key recommendation in the HiPEAC report is that software should be written by software, not programmers. Writing quality code for modern general-purpose processors is already very challenging for qualified humans — it is beyond the capacity of humans to develop correct, efficient, and secure code for new-generation heterogeneous computer platforms, particularly in a viable way for lead time and cost. The only long-term solution, according to the report, is to develop production environments capable of automatically generating and optimizing code out of a wide range of high-level specifications either written in a domain specific language or codified in a large and comprehensive labelled data set for machine learning.

In addition, computing infrastructure needs to be treated as a continuum, from the edge to the cloud, ensuring both interoperability between the individual sub-systems, as well as ensuring that devices can dynamically and intelligently adapt. Systems range from deep-edge (microcontrollers linked to sensors or actuators), to edge, concentrators, micro-servers, servers and cloud or HPC.

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>> Continue reading page two of this article on our sister site, EE Times: "Europe's HPC Community Sets Vision for Embedded Systems."

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