Timothy Roscoe gives talks at Cavium, WMware and Apple

Timothy Roscoe gave the talk "Enzian: a research computer" at Cavium, VMware and Apple in Silicon Valley.


Traditional systems software research is facing a new challenge to its relevance. Modern hardware CAD systems, the drive to lower power and "dark silicon", FPGAs, and other factors have made it both easy, quick, and cheap for system vendors to build custom hardware platforms. Almost any function can now be put into silicon or reconfigurable logic: the choice of exactly what *should* be built is a short-term business decision based on markets and workloads.

Such hardware qualitatively changes how systems, including system software, should be conceived and designed. However, most published OS research in rack-scale, embedded, or datacenter computing only uses affordable commodity platforms for which documentation is available to researchers. Academia and industry practice are diverging.

Enzian is an attempt to build a computer at ETH Zurich (with help from Cavium and Xilinx) to bridge this gap in a way not possible with commodity hardware or simulation. Enzian nodes closely couple a server-class CPU SoC with a large FPGA in the same coherence domain, with abundant network bandwidth to both chips. It is designed for maximum research flexibility, and can be used in many ways: a high-end server with FPGA-based acceleration, a multiport 200Gb/s NIC supporting custom protocols and cache access, a platform for runtime verification and auditing of system code, to name but three.