Timothy Roscoe gives a Colloquium at Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University (UPMC)

Timothy Roscoe gave a Colloquium entitled “The Trouble with Hardware” at Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University (UPMC) in Paris, France.


Computer hardware, from datacenters through rackscale computing down to mobile device systems-on-chip, is increasingly easy to design. A combination of advanced CAD systems, the rise of Moore's law, and now the fall of Moore's law, has resulted in a huge diversity of hardware platforms whose complexity is immense. One downside of this is the monumental software engineering challenge in building and maintaining correct, robust, and portable systems software. This is an open secret in many pockets of industry but receives little attention in research. We ran against this problem full square (and continue to do so) while developing the Barrelfish research OS. In part of my talk I'll discuss about what can be done to address this in the design of systems software, by importing ideas from formal verification, knowledge representation, and program synthesis to the C-dominated world of low-level code. This, however, begs broader questions: given that custom hardware is getting easier to design, what should it look like to system software? How can systems researchers influence such hardware? And in an age where more corporations are building custom hardware but academia is mostly restricted to commodity systems, what can be done to conduct relevant, impactful research in this space outside of industry? I'll try and suggest some answers.