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Fleet, Infinity & Marina

Date and Time
Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Computer Science Small Auditorium (Room 105)
Distinguished Colloquium Series Speaker
Ivan Sutherland, from Portland State University
Douglas Clark
This talk describes a radically different architecture for computing called Fleet. Fleet accepts the limitations to computing imposed by physics: moving data costs more energy, more delay, and more chip area than the arithmetic and logical operations ordinarily called "computing." Fleet puts the programmer firmly in charge of the most costly resource: communication. Fleet treats arithmetic and logical operations as side effects of where the programmer sends data.

Fleet achieves high performance through fine grain concurrency. Everything Fleet does is concurrent at the lowest level; programmers who wish sequential behavior must program it explicitly. Fleet presents a stark contrast to today's multi-core machines in which programmers seek concurrency in an inherently sequential environment.

The Fleet architecture uses a uniform switch fabric to simplify chip design. A few thousand identical copies of a configurable interface will connect a thousand or so repetitions of basic arithmetic, logical, input-output, and storage units to the switch fabric. The uniform switch fabric and the identical configurable interfaces will simplify many of the hard parts of designing the computing elements themselves.

Both software and FPGA simulators of a Fleet system are available at UC Berkeley. Berkeley students have written a variety of Fleet programs; their work helped to define what the configurable interface between computing and communication must do. A simple compiler configures both source and destination to provide flow-controlled communication. We expect work on a higher-level language for Fleet to appear soon as a Berkeley PhD dissertation.

Last year we built a 90 nanometer TSMC test chip, called Infinity, at Sun Microsystems. Infinity demonstrated the switch fabric running at about 4 GHz. We now have a new test chip, called Marina, also in 90-nanometer TSMC sponsored by Sun. Marina shows correct operation of the configurable switch fabric interface. Together Infinity and Marina give us confidence to build a complete Fleet. We seek participation from sponsors, computer scientists, and hardware designers.

Ivan Sutherland is a Visiting Scientist at Portland State University where he and Marly Roncken have recently established the "Asynchronous Research Center" (ARC). The ARC occupies both physical and intellectual space half way between the Computer Science (CS) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) departments at the university. The ARC seeks to free designers from the tyranny of the clock by developing better tools and teaching methods for design of self-timed systems. Prior to moving to Portland, Ivan spent 25 years as a Fellow at Sun Microsystems. A 1959 graduate of Carnegie Tech, Ivan got his PhD at MIT in 1963 and has taught at Harvard, The University of Utah, and Caltech. Ivan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.

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