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RAMP: research accelerator for multiple processors - a community vision for a shared experimental parallel HW/SW platform

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1 Author(s)
D. A. Patterson ; California Univ., Berkeley, CA, USA

Summary form only given. The vast majority of computer architects believe the future of the microprocessor is hundreds to thousands of processors ("cores") on a chip. Given such widespread agreement, it's surprising how much research remains to be done in algorithms, computer architecture, networks, operating systems, file systems, compilers, programming languages, applications, and so on to realize this vision. Fortunately, Moore's law has not only enabled dense multi-core chips, it has also enabled extremely dense FPGAs. Today, one to two dozen soft cores can be programmed into a single FPGA. With multiple FPGAs on a board and multiple boards in a system, 1000-processor designs can be economically and rapidly explored. To make this happen, however, requires a significant amount of infrastructure in hardware, software, and what we call "gateware", the register-transfer level models that fill the FGPAs. By using the Berkeley Emulation Engine boards that were created for other purposes, the hardware is already done. A group of architects plan to design the gateware, create this infrastructure, and share the results in an open-source fashion so that every institution could have their own. Such a system would not just invigorate multiprocessors research in the architecture community. Since processors cores can run at 100 to 200 MHz, a large scale multiprocessor would be fast enough to run operating systems and large programs at speeds sufficient to support software research. Moreover, there is a new generation of FPGAs every 18 months with capacity for twice as many cores and run them faster, so future multiboard FPGA systems are even more attractive. Hence, we believe such a system would accelerate research across all the fields that touch multiple processors. Thus the acronynm RAMP, for Research Accelerator for Multiple Processors. RAMP has the potential to transform the parallel computing community in computer science from a simulation-driven to a prototype-drive- discipline, leading to rapid iteration across interfaces of the many fields of multiple processors, and thereby moving much more quickly to a parallel foundation for large-scale computer systems research in the 21st century.

Published in:

2006 IEEE International Symposium on Performance Analysis of Systems and Software

Date of Conference:

19-21 March 2006