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Bridging the software-hardware divide

Li’s group are seeking to improve system efficiency, programmability, and performance to bridge the gap.

Bitcoin is the last major blockchain to use the energy intensive mining process that requires rows of energy-guzzing computers. — © AFP
Bitcoin is the last major blockchain to use the energy intensive mining process that requires rows of energy-guzzing computers. — © AFP

Within technology, there appears to be a growing gap between the capacity of hardware devices and the demands of the applications that run on them. As data generation and processing needs grow exponentially across everyday devices like smartphones to complex systems like datacentres and supercomputers, there is a need to harness the full potential of new hardware technologies.

To challenge this, researchers like Huaicheng Li, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, is working to solve this vexing computing challenge. Challenges include increasing demands for improved data storage and processing capabilities, fuelled by rapid changes in the datacentre landscape.

Under the auspices of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award, Li’s group are seeking to improve system efficiency, programmability, and performance to bridge the gap between emerging hardware technologies and the needs of modern software applications.

These endeavours are clustered around d a new project titled “Rethinking System Stack for the Load-Store I/O Era”. The project is set to run between May 1, 2024, to April 30, 2029, drawing on a grant of $676,549.

The key goal of the project is to redesign the Linux operating system to work with a promising new hardware technology called Compute Express Link (CXL).

Compute Express Link is an open standard for high-speed, high capacity central processing unit-to-device and CPU-to-memory connections, designed for high performance data centre computers.

“We envision a future where computer systems will adopt CXL for next generation storage, memory, and compute devices. Unfortunately, CXL is still very new, and it’s not designed for nearly decade-old operating systems,” Li says.

He adds: “Our ultimate goal is to introduce a holistic approach to unify memory, storage, and computing devices to make them faster, more cost-efficient, and easier to use.”

This open-access project is set to enable advancements in data analytics, machine learning, and more. Another benefit could be with boosting data centre efficiency while reducing costs.

The project has a secondary aim of incorporating extensive education plans to provide today’s students with up-to-date, research-driven learning and industry collaboration opportunities. As an example, the team are working remotely with a small group of undergraduates in Indonesia.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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