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Beyond Moore's Law at Rebooting Computing



By Curt Hopkins, Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs

The solutions Labs has developed over the past half-decade to enable computing to move past the end of Moore’s Law are unconventional. Memory-Driven Computing and The Machine; the Dot Product Engine; neuromorphic, approximate, and chaos computing; fast memory fabric; and photonics are all promising avenues past the declining improvement in speed, responsiveness and memory we are seeing from traditional computing architecture.

Now, however, these ideas are now entering the mainstream of computing, in large part thanks to the IEEE International Conference on Rebooting Computing, held this year in early November in Maclean, VA. [pullquote]There is a recognition there that the end of Moore’s Law is no longer eventual, it is imminent.[pullquote]

Sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which bills itself as “the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology,” this year’s conference had double the attendees of last year, and has grown into a weeklong Rebooting Computing Week.

The best thing that has happened in computing

“This conference, like the effort to reboot computing itself, started out as all great things with something that bugs you,” says Kirk Bresniker, HPE Fellow and chief architect of Hewlett Packard Labs. “Earlier, people asked ‘Can’t we just do such-and-such to keep Moore’s Law going?’ This time, attendees seem to have broken through that. They want to be the one that thrives on the chaos that comes out of this because they now see it as we do – as an opportunity.”

As Williams has said elsewhere, “The end of Moore's law may be the best thing that has happened in computing since the beginning of Moore's law.”

Bresniker notes that we’re not going to see the sudden eclipse of traditional computing. “I’m still not going to bet against CMOS process engineers just yet, but this situation gives opportunities for novel approaches. The curve of traditional computing is flattening out and the other arc is starting to move up. Don’t you want to be part of the line moving up?”

The answer seems to be yes.

It is far from accidental that this influential conference, created in recognition of the eventual end of Moore’s Law, is the showcase for new computing ideas.

“It would be an exaggeration to say we have led the development of the conference and the effort to reboot computing,” said Dejan Milojicic, Distinguished Technologist at Hewlett Packard Labs, president emeritus of the IEEE Computer Society, and member of the IEEE Board of Directors. “But we have contributed in many substantive ways.”

Labs and Rebooting Computing

“We in Labs have been significant contributors to the Rebooting Computing effort since it was conceived by Prof. Tom Conte of Georgia Tech, Dr. Erik DeBenedictis of Sandia National Labs, and a few others,” said Stan Williams, HPE Senior Fellow and member of the Systems Architecture Lab.

Williams was general chairman of last year’s first formal ICRC conference, for instance, and was assisted in the conference organization by John Paul Strachan and other Systems Architecture Lab researchers.

Before the first ICRC last year, there were four different workshops on the topic of Rebooting Computing,” said Williams. “The attendance at those workshops was by invitation only, and several people from HP and HPE were involved in those.”

The ideas that have come from Labs have percolated through the industry. For instance, the plenary talks at IEEE’s electronic devices meeting, IEDM, were remarkable, says Labs Research Scientist John Paul Strachan.

The speakers offered Machine-like suggestions for future innovations, all aiming at the same point about Moore’s Law: Instead of the number of transistors doubling every 1.5 years, it has stretched to 2.4 years for CPUs and 2.1 years for GPUs. Only 40% of this improvement is still coming from device improvements. The rest “are things like better cooling that let you get up from 200 Watts to 300 Watts, larger die sizes, and a portfolio of micro-architectural improvements,” according to Strachan.

“The speakers were highlighting the same ideas we’ve highlighted over the past 3 years around The Machine,” says Strachan. For many of the attendees, they got great access to ideas they had yet to consider but which Labs has been working on for some time.

Same Labs time, same Labs place

“Members of Labs are already in the process of writing themes for next year’s Rebooting Computing Conference,” says Milojicic. One possible track is the effect of the end of Moore’s Law on software. The call for papers for that conference, also to take place in Washington, D.C., will also be issued soon.

Two of the prominent elements of this year’s conference will be continued next year. The international aspect was pronounced, welcoming participants from around Europe and Asia. It was also a conference that mixed government, industry, and academic attendees in one place.

Watch Williams’ address from the conference, “Removing The Golden Handcuffs: Computing At The End of Moore's Scaling,” and Kirk Bresniker’s address “From Edge To Core: Memory-Driven Hardware and Software Co-Design,” and other offerings from Rebooting Computing Week on IEEE TV.

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Managing Editor, Hewlett Packard Labs

Clara Montalvo

great article!