On the bright future of hardware acceleration
Principal Researcher at Microsoft Researc
Fourteen years ago GPUs did not exist; now they are everywhere and graphics processing has moved from the high-end workstations to commodity parts on portable computers and phones. Microsoft and its researchers were major players in this transformation, both in gaming and on personal computers. Today some people at Microsoft Research are looking closely into FPGA technologies.
The flexibility, low-power, and efficiency with which software algorithms can be mapped to these devices is a powerful magnet, especially now that the clock has leveled in our CPUs. Maybe these people are just crazy, but maybe... can the future carry "an FPGA in every computer"? I will offer an overview of MSR's work with FPGAs and some reflections on the road-blocks that the research community can address to realize such an ambitious vision.
Alessandro Forin is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Redmond, USA, where he
leads a small research group on Embedded Systems, with special emphasis on Reconfigurable Computing.
He has been at Microsoft Research since 1994, working on operating systems (the OS for the first interactive
TV system, the MMLite RTOS for the Talisman graphics card, Windows for Xbox-1) and networking (the VIA/Infiniband
cluster interconnect, the first TCP/IP land-speed record for Windows) before switching to FPGAs.
Previously he was on the Faculty at Carnegie-Mellon University and created the first weakly-coherent
distributed shared memory system, used for speech recognition. As a co-principal investigator for the
Mach OS project (now Apple's OS X) he then worked on shared memory multiprocessors, RISC and 64-bit
microprocessors, multiple user-mode OS emulations (Unix, VMS, MS-DOS, MacOS) and user-mode I/O architectures.
Alessandro graduated from the University of Padova, Italy with a MS in Electrical Engineering in 1982 and a PhD
in Computer Science in 1987. He is Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Texas A&M University since 2005, holds 21 patents.