Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Get Ready for the Computers of the Future

02.06.2014

Sandia National Laboratories launches push to innovate next-generation machines

Computing experts at Sandia National Laboratories have launched an effort to help discover what computers of the future might look like, from next-generation supercomputers to systems that learn on their own — new machines that do more while using less energy.


Sandia National Laboratories/Randy Wong

Sandia National Laboratories’ Francois Leonard holds a wire mesh cylinder similar in design to a carbon nanotube that might form the basis for future computing technology. Computing experts at Sandia are exploring what computers of the future might look like — new types of machines that do more while using less energy.

“We think that by combining capabilities in microelectronics and computer architecture, Sandia can help initiate the jump to the next technology curve sooner and with less risk,” said Rob Leland, head of Sandia’s Computing Research Center. Leland recently outlined a major effort into next-generation computing called Beyond Moore Computing that’s part of Sandia’s overall work on future computing.

For decades, the computer industry operated under Moore’s Law, named for Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore, who in 1965 postulated it was economically feasible to improve the density, speed and power of integrated circuits exponentially over time. But speed has plateaued, the energy required to run systems is rising sharply and industry can’t indefinitely continue to cram more transistors onto chips.

The plateauing of Moore’s Law is driving up energy costs for modern scientific computers to the point that, if current trends hold, more powerful future supercomputers would become impractical due to enormous energy consumption.

Solving that conundrum will require new computer architecture that reduces energy costs, which are principally associated with moving data, Leland said. Eventually, computing also will need new technology that uses less energy at the transistor device-level, he added.

Sandia experts expect multiple computing device-level technologies in the future, rather than one dominant architecture. About a dozen possible next-generation candidates exist, including tunnel FETs (field effect transistors, in which the output current is controlled by a variable electric field), carbon nanotubes, superconductors and fundamentally new approaches, such as quantum computing and brain-inspired computing.

Sandia’s facilities will play key role in researching future computing technology

Sandia is well positioned to work on future computing technology due to its broad and long history in supercomputers, from architecture to algorithms to applications. Leland said Sandia can play a key role because of that far-reaching background and two key facilities: the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) complex, which performs multidisciplinary microsystems research and development and fabricates chips to test ideas; and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology (CINT), a Department of Energy Office of Science national user facility operated by Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

No one is sure what tomorrow’s high performance computers will look like. “We have some ideas, of course, and we have different camps of opinion about what it might look like, but we’re really right in the midst of figuring that out,” Leland said.

Erik DeBenedictis of Sandia’s Advanced Device Technologies department said Sandia can play an important role in creating breakthroughs that are not simply variations of transistors — developments such as computers that learn or technologies that move data from one part of the computer to another more efficiently — crucial for big data problems.

What ultimately prevails might well be something not yet invented, Leland said.

“That’s the first challenge, to figure out what the new device technology is, then work through what the implications of that are, what sort of computer architecture is required to assemble that device into components and subsystems and systems,” he said.

New technology must be broadly adopted to drive improvements

Sandia needs both capability computing, which means finer resolution and more accuracy, and capacity computing, or running many different jobs simultaneously.

“So what does efficiency buy you? It allows you to have a bigger computer or more computers with the same amount of operating expense — paying your power bill,” said Advanced Device Technologies department manager John Aidun. “There’s no limit to the amount of efficiency we would like to achieve because really there’s no limit to the amount of computing we would like to do.”

Whatever technology comes next must be broadly adopted so it will drive continual improvements, similar to the way the 1947 invention of the transistor transformed society. It’s not enough to have a device that’s fast; it has to be something that can be built into a complete computer system, Aidun said.

Thus, new technology must have commercial uses. “There will have to be some industrial base that supports it and produces it and that can be used to assemble a large number of these into a system that can be deployed for national security,” Leland said. “What we’d really like to do is figure out how to advance the state of the art for national security in a way that is more broadly deployable across society.”

The computer industry is exploring technologies that in essence are drop-in replacements for transistors with improved characteristics: different designs such as the fin FET, a 3-D rather than a flat configuration on a computer chip, Aidun said. While the design would be moderately disruptive for industry, it’s still compatible with standard silicon fab technology and opens the potential for generations of ever-smaller fin FETs on a chip, he said.

While industry views a beyond-transistor technology as something far off, Sandia’s national security interests anticipate bigger changes will be needed sooner than industry would develop them on its own, Aidun said. He estimated Sandia could have a prototype new technology within a decade.

Identifying best computer designs can help accelerate innovation

To accelerate the process, Sandia wants to identify computer designs that could take advantage of new device technologies and demonstrate key components or steps in fabrication that would lower the risk for industry by demonstrating technological feasibility.

“We’d be doing it with an eye toward helping industry give due attention to national security needs in computing,” Aidun said.

The numerical capability developed in computers in World War II remains valuable today for such tasks as nuclear weapons simulations. But the modern era’s largest computing development — the Internet — deals with text and demands computing functions called integer calculation, also used in mobile computing.

Improving mobile computing could allow much more efficient and rapid data processing aboard satellites, so less data would need to be sent to Earth for processing.

“The mobility we see in cell phones and tablets is the closest match for the mobility needs of UAVs and satellites,” DeBenedictis said. “The energy and time required to transmit data to the ground, process it there and send the answer back is a bottleneck, and it can be more resource-intensive than just computing on the device.”

He also suggested turning more programming over to cognitive computers to help programmers manage ever-faster computers. “While computers have gotten millions of times faster, programmers and analysts are pretty much as efficient as they’ve always been,” he said.

Cognitive computing can play role in pattern recognition

Cognitive computers might be able to do more to recognize patterns in satellite imagery, for example. People would still make the judgments, but computers would help by recognizing some lower-level patterns, he said. Up to now, programmers have created ways for computers to recognize images; computers didn’t learn on their own. A cognitive computer, however, would learn to identify patterns, DeBenedictis said.

“A computer can learn to recognize images pretty well. Humans assisted by a computer recognizing images could improve the ability significantly,” he said.

Researchers also must determine what hardware and software changes are needed so new devices are both possible to manufacture and practical to operate. “You have to design over all those different considerations,” Leland said. “That’s what makes this a particularly challenging problem.”

Today’s computer systems rely on huge, longstanding investments in massive amounts of software.

“So we are strongly motivated to develop computers that will run old software that was optimized for traditional computer architectures that are not used today,” DeBenedictis said. “To break out of that, we have to find different architectures that are more energy efficient at running old code and are more easily programmed for new code, or architectures that can learn some behaviors that once required programming.”

Since the software of today won’t unleash the full capabilities of the hardware of tomorrow, he expects computers in about a decade that can run both today’s software and new software. New software “would learn or would process information in fundamentally different ways, and become the most powerful aspect of the computer over time,” he said.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact:

Sue Holmes, sholmes@sandia.gov, (505) 844-6362

Sue Holmes | newswise
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov

Further reports about: Computing decade improvements recognize satellites technologies transistors

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht HPC System Hornet Ready to Serve Highest Computational Demands
30.03.2015 | Universität Stuttgart

nachricht Engineers develop new methods to speed up simulations in computational grand challenge
27.03.2015 | University of California - San Diego

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers discover how body's good fat tissue communicates with brain

30.03.2015 | Life Sciences

For drivers with telescopic lenses, driving experience and training affect road test results

30.03.2015 | Health and Medicine

Climate change does not cause extreme winters

30.03.2015 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>