Why reconfigurable computing?

About our research area: reconfigurierable microelectronic systems and their applications, especially in Communication Techniques

The Microprocessor is a Methusala. After several technology generations it is no longer general purpose. Its performance often is too weak to run its own display. Even in a PC application - specific silicon occupies much more silicon area than the microprocessor itself: the tail wagging the dog! At extremely high cost a lot of specific accelerator ICs have to be designed and fabricated.

Structurally programmable circuits offer a way out: providing new designs is replaced by reconfiguration within milliseconds. But FPGAs [3] available commercially are too inefficient. A study at MIT reports, that FPGAs use only one percent chip area for the real application, whereas the other 99% are used for reconfigurability artefacts (about 10% configuration code memory, and about 90% for programmability of interconnect).

The Xputer Laboratory works on development and application of a new generation [1] of dynamically reconfigurable computing systems - Kaiserslautern's KressArray offers about a thousand times [2] more area-efficient than FPGAs and permits massive parallelism for its use in programmable accelerator co-processors.

Configware-Co-Compiler. The Xputer Lab develops not only applications but also a new kind of compilers translating C source programs into reconfiguration code (configware). Based on hardware/software co-design methods our Co-De-X co-compiler [2] generates machine code for both: microprocessor and accelerator. Since its maschine principles are different from those of the Methusala "computer", the term "Xputer" stands for Kaiserslautern-type accelerator co-processors.

Application areas of such dynamically reconfigurable high-preformance accelerators are e. g. wireless communication networks. The end-users portable device becomes field-adaptable by downloading software and configware over the network down to the customers location: for instance for bug fixes, updates for changes (e. g. protocols and others), upgrading for new services (e. g. for innovating the network services), adaptation to environments, e. g. select SECAM, PAL oder NTSC, or, regional mobile phone standards (multi standard handies!).

Configware downloads are needed, since e. g. for wavelet-based wireless systems need handies providing hundreds of MIPS of computing power, which is impossible without accelerator use.
We want to cooperate with users. E-mail: hartenst@rhrk.uni-kl.de
Literature:
[1] W. H. Mangione-Smith, et al.: Seeking Solutions in Configurable Computing; IEEE Computer 30,12 (December 1997),
[2] J. Becker et al.: Parallelization in Co-Compilation for Configurable Accelerators; Proc . ASP_DAC '98 (Asian and SouthPacific Design Automation Conference, 1998), Yokohama, Japan
 

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