Dark Silicon and its Implication on Server Design


November 8, 2010


Babak Falsafi


EPFL - École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne


Technology forecasts indicate that device scaling will continue well into the next decade.
Unfortunately, it is becoming extremely difficult to harness performance out of such an abundance of transistors due to a number of technological, circuit, architectural, methodological and programming challenges. In this talk, I will argue that the ultimate emerging showstopper is power even for workloads abound in parallelism. Voltage scaling as a means to maintain a constant power envelope with an increase in transistor numbers has hit diminishing returns, requiring drastic measures to cut power to continue riding the Moore’s law. I will present results backing this argument based on validated models for future server chips and parameters extracted from real commercial workloads. Then I use these results to project future research directions for server hardware and software.


Babak Falsafi

Babak Falsafi is a Professor in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at EPFL, and an Adjunct Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. He is the founder and the director of the Parallel Systems Architecture Laboratory (PARSA) at EPFL where he conducts research on architectural support for parallel programming, resilient systems, architectures to break the memory wall, and analytic and simulation tools for computer system performance evaluation. In 1999, in collaboration with T. N. Vijaykumar he showed for the first time that contrary to conventional wisdom multiprocessors do not need relaxed memory consistency models (and the resulting convoluted programming interfaces found and used in modern systems) to achieve high performance. He is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award in 2000, IBM Faculty Partnership Awards between 2001 and 2004, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2004. He is a senior member of IEEE and ACM.