New Center Based at UIUC will Develop Distributed Computing Technology for 2030 and Beyond

1/5/2023 12:23:56 PM

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Funded by a $31.5 million grant from the Joint University Microelectronics Program 2.0 (JUMP 2.0), the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) will lead the ACE Center for Evolvable Computing, a new center that will advance distributed computing technology, from cloud-based datacenters to edge nodes, so it operates with orders of magnitude more energy efficiency than today. 

With additional funds from partnering institutions, ACE will have a total budget of $39.6 million over five years.

The JUMP 2.0 program is a public-private partnership led by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), in cooperation with DARPA, and is co-sponsored by SRC, DARPA, the commercial semiconductor industry, and the defense industrial base. It is a new program that supports university research collaboration with a consortium of semiconductor and defense companies, focusing on challenges facing microelectronics advancement. 

JUMP 2.0 is funding seven new multi-university research centers, each of which focuses on one of seven themes of critical importance. The ACE center won the award for the “Systems and Architectures for Distributed Compute” theme. 

“I am excited to announce the participation and partnership of the UIUC-led ACE center in the SRC JUMP 2.0 program. They seek to develop hardware and software to enable evolvable distributed compute, and I look forward to ACE’s future innovations!” said Adam Knapp, the JUMP 2.0 Program Manager.

Josep Torrellas
Josep Torrellas

ACE will be directed by Josep Torrellas, the Saburo Muroga Professor of Computer Science at UIUC. The Assistant Director will be Minlan Yu, the Gordon McKay Professor at Harvard. Other ACE investigators include UIUC Computer Science faculty Tarek Abdelzaher and Charith Mendis, as well as faculty from Cornell, Georgia Tech, MIT, Ohio State, Purdue University, Stanford, the University of California San Diego, the University of Kansas, the University of Michigan, The University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington. 

“The ACE Center will develop new computing paradigms that are critically needed for national technological priorities in microelectronics. I am excited that multiple stakeholders came together to make this center possible,” said Rashid Bashir, Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering at UIUC.

Distributed computing is defined by the need to process vast swaths of data for insights in a timely manner. “In years ahead,” said Torrellas, “minimizing data movement to curtail energy consumption will be the overriding constraint.”

To meet ACE’s goal of high-performance, energy-efficient, and secure distributed computing, the research team envisions the future compute infrastructure as a seamless hierarchy of compute centers that span from the edge to geo-distributed mega-datacenters. Each compute center will contain a myriad of heterogeneous hardware accelerators, and tasks of unprecedentedly small granularity will ship computation across the globe to where data are. 

“We are not simply looking for a new accelerator or a better networking stack that provides a one-time solution,” explained Torrellas. “We are looking for a computing framework that is ‘evolvable,’ meaning designed for extensibility and composability, and adaptable to ever-more-demanding environments.”

The ACE Center will contribute to the national effort to strengthen the semiconductor industry and train a highly skilled workforce in this field. It will involve over a hundred graduate and undergraduate students, who will work closely with faculty and leading researchers in industry. This large-scale collaboration will be unique in its ability to draw on the differing strengths of industry and academia.

One of ACE’s goals is to create an ecosystem for direct engagement and collaborative research projects with industry partners drawn from SRC member companies and companies in the broader areas of microelectronics and distributed systems. 

In addition to ACE, Grainger Engineers are involved in three other JUMP 2.0 centers announced this week. The Processing with Intelligent Storage and Memory (PRISM) center, which will be the “Intelligent Memory and Storage” theme center, is being co-directed by Nam Sung Kim, with a University of California San Diego director. Naresh Shanbhag is on the leadership teams of both the Georgia-Tech-led Center for the Co-Design of Cognitive Systems (CoCoSys) and the Columbia-led Center for Ubiquitous Connectivity (CUbiC). Pavan Hanumolu will also be an investigator in CUbiC. They are the centers for the JUMP 2.0 “Cognition” and “Communications and Connectivity” themes, respectively. Kim, Shanbhag and Hanumolu are all professors of electrical and computer engineering.

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This story was published January 5, 2023.