Soner Onder (SAS), professor of computer science, presented a keynote lecture July 8, 2019, at the International Conference on Embedded Computer Systems: Architectures, Modeling and Simulation (SAMOS XIX) on Samos Island, Greece, which was held July 7-11. Onder’s talk was titled, “Form Follows Function: The Case for Homogeneous Computer Architectures.” Onder also participated in the conference’s “The Annual Open Mike Panel.”
Keynote Lecture Abstract: ”Form follows function” is a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose”. For best performance in computer architecture, form must follow function as well. What are form and function in computer architecture? Form is easy to understand and interpret in its dictionary meaning; Function is not so clear-cut. In this talk, I will start with a simple problem, an algorithm, and a basic program representation that will be interpreted by the machine, and show that delivering high performance rests on solving only a handful, but fundamentally difficult problems. I will argue that the mere existence of domain specific solutions that general purpose computing cannot match in performance is a testament that the general purpose computing is ”not general enough”. What makes an architecture ”not general enough” is not the architecture itself, but rather the mismatch between the function its form had followed and the actual semantics of programs. To illustrate the point, I will challenge the widely understood interpretation of instruction-level parallelism (ILP) as ”single-thread performance”, and show that this interpretation is too short-sighted. We can efficiently exploit all types of available parallelism, including process-level, thread-level and data level parallelism, all at the instruction-level, and this approach is both feasible and necessary to combat the complexity that is plaguing our profession. I will then discuss why an executable single-assignment program representation  may be the ultimate function whose implementations may result in homogeneous general purpose architectures that can potentially match the performance of accelerators for specific tasks, while exceeding the performance of any accelerator traditional architecture combination for general tasks. I will conclude by discussing our results with Demand-driven Execution (DDE), whose form follows this single-assignment program representation.
About SAMOS (from http://samos-conference.com/): SAMOS is a unique conference. It deals with embedded systems (sort of) but that is not what makes it different. It brings together every year researchers from both academia and industry on the quiet and inspiring northern mountainside of the Mediterranean island of Samos, which in itself is different. But more importantly, it really fosters collaboration rather than competition. Formal and intensive technical sessions are only held in the mornings.A lively panel or distinguished keynote speaker ends the formal part of the day, and leads nicely into the afternoons and evenings — reserved for informal discussions, good food, and the inviting Aegean Sea. The conference papers will be published by Springer’s Lecture Notes in Computer Science – LNCS and will be included in the DBLP Database.