NYU Computer Lab Is Working On Challenge Of Bringing EPIC Technology To Embedded Systems

November 10, 1998

Krishna V. Palem's ReaCT-ILP Lab is Working on Challenge of Bringing EPIC Technology to Embedded Systems.

Within the next 10 years, more than 80 percent of the computers that people use will be embedded in other devices: cars, medical diagnostic tools, television sets and such. But there are currently only a handful of major university laboratories in the United States devoted to research on such embedded computers. NYU's ReaCT-ILP laboratory (http://www.react-ilp.cs.nyu.edu) is one of them.

Headed by NYU Computer Scientist Krishna V. Palem, ReaCT-ILP is working on eliminating one of the major remaining barriers to the proliferation of smart technologies: the amount of labor involved in writing programs for them. Palem is developing software technologies that will greatly reduce the amount of code that programmers must write to synchronize the processes controlled by embedded computer systems.

For example, it currently takes months for the developers of automobile ABS systems to write the code that ensures that break pads depress at just the right interval to prevent a car from skidding. With ReaCT-ILP innovations, it is anticipated that only weeks - and eventually, hours - of programming will be needed.

Specifically, ReaCT-ILP is working on the development of a new model of optimizing compiler -- software that boosts the speed at which instructions are processed -- that will regulate the timing of when and how these instructions are executed.

By eliminating the need for programmers to write code for the proper timing of each instruction, ReaCT-ILP's optimizing compiler makes it feasible for embedded applications to be designed to execute a great many instructions simultaneously. Such explicitly parallel instruction computing (EPIC) technology - which is the foundation of the much anticipated "Merced" processor - is regarded as the next generation of computing technology.

Likewise ReaCT-ILP's optimizing compiler is aiming to expedite the application of JAVA programming language to embedded systems, which would further simplify the task of writing programs for them.

The CAR group of the Hewlett Packard Laboratories played a leading role in the development of the technical foundation for EPIC technologies. The IA-64, Intel's next-generation microprocessor platform, is based on EPIC technology.

EPIC computing would dramatically increase the amount of information that computers embedded in smart devices can process and the precision of the actions and responses that they direct.

In addition to its work on embedded systems, the ReaCT-ILP lab is also involved in a major collaborative effort to make EPIC technologies available to the academic community. Named Trimaran and released this August, this collaboration also involves the CAR group of Hewlett Packard Laboratories and the University of Illinois' IMPACT project.

Speaking of ReaCT-ILP's goals for embedded systems, Krishna Palem said, "Our lab is committed to breaking the programming bottleneck. Our optimizing compiler will reduce the time and expense involved in programming embedded systems to execute tasks that depend on precise timing. Our goal is to leverage EPIC innovations and use pieces of it to enhance the scope and reach of embedded systems. I don't think that we can use the full power of EPIC to start with, but the challenge is to identify pieces of it that are relevant to embedded systems.

"Over the next fifteen years, we will see how our work is applied to real technology. We are likely to see a generation of new and substantially smarter devices. The smart devices that have already been developed -- automobile engine management systems and medical diagnostic tools, for example -- will be refined to make them more sensitive and responsive. And we will see a great many hitherto unenvisioned applications of smart technology.

"From an academic standpoint, universities have long played an important role in the development of new computer technologies. For example, Stanford, Berkeley and Rice were the leaders in compiler research for the current generation of RISC and parallel computer technologies."

According to Naren Nachiappan, Senior Vice President of VenturCom, a leading designer of operating systems for embedded computing devices, "Dr. Palem's work is timely and very relevant for the embedded systems industry. This technology is critical in enabling the optimal use of future generations of microprocessors in embedded applications. A broad range of industry segments -- including factory automations systems, data communication systems, avionics and medical instrumentation -- can all benefit from the application of this technology."

David McLaughlin, director of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, said, "The work of Krishna Palem and the ReaCT-ILP laboratory is a fine example of the Courant Institute's well-recognized strength in the development of computing technology. The Trimaran project is designed to help researchers create the next generation of explicitly parallel computing technology, which will play a major role in our nation's technological competitiveness."

The ReaCT-ILP laboratory at the computer science department of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Science is directed by Krishna Palem. NYU professors Robert Dewar and Benjamin Goldberg have collaborated with Palem and the lab members who include Han-Soo Kim, Allen Leung, Igor Pechtchanski, Rodric Rabbah and Surendranath Talla.

The React-ILP laboratory receives funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In addition the lab has received awards from the Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd (Panasonic).

New York University

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