Hazem Ali Defends Dissertation

Today, Hazem Ali successfully defended his PhD dissertation entitled "Integrating Dataflow and Non-Dataflow Real-time Application Models on Multi-core Platforms" and became a doctor. The main contribution of the thesis is a design flow that integrates applications specified using two different application models, data-flow graphs and periodic real-time task sets, on a shared NoC-based multi-core platform. The committee recognized that the work was building bridges between two different communities in the world of real-time systems and that it was nice that the publications from the PhD work have been nicely integrated into a single design flow.

For those of you that are interested in a short summary of this work, please refer to his publication "Combining Dataflow Applications and Real-time Task Sets on Multi-core Platforms" accepted at the 2017 Workshop on Software and Compilers for Embedded Systems (SCOPES). Lastly, we wish Hazem the best of luck in his future career.

Paper Accepted at SCOPES 2017

Hazem had a paper entitled “Combining Dataflow Applications and Real-time Task Sets on Multi-core Platforms” accepted at the 2017 Workshop on Software and Compilers for Embedded Systems (SCOPES). This paper is a short overview of his PhD dissertation, which will be defended in Porto on May 23, and explains an approach to map and schedule a multi-/many-core system containing both applications described as traditional real-time task sets and synchronous data-flow graphs. Hazem’s approach is to convert the data-flow graph into a periodic real-time task set to unify the models before mapping, which enables him to leverage existing real-time analysis techniques and schedulers. However, converting a complex data-flow graph into a periodic task set may result in a large number of tasks, resulting in long analysis times. To mitigate this problem, he proposes a slack-based merging algorithm that allows the number of tasks to be reduced by carefully sacrificing parallelism in the data-flow graph, subject to its latency and throughput constraints. Lastly, the resulting unified real-time task set is mapped to a multi-/many-core platform interconnected by a TDM NoC using a sensitive-path-first algorithm, which first allocates tasks derived from the original data-flow graph that have the highest impact on its execution and schedulability. It is also able to exploit parallelism in graph during mapping.

We hope you enjoy the paper and wish Hazem all the best for his upcoming defense.

Yonghui Li Defends Dissertation

Today, we celebrate that Yonghui Li successfully defended his PhD dissertation “Design and Formal Analysis of Real-Time Memory Controllers” and became Dr. Li. The thesis defines a dynamically scheduled real-time memory controller architecture, which is implemented as a SystemC simulation model. It then continues by analyzing the worst-case response time and minimum guaranteed bandwidth using three different formal frameworks. The first framework is a mathematical formulation of both the actual and worst-case timing behavior as a set of equations and proofs of their correctness. These equations are also implemented in an open-source tool. The drawback of this kind of mathematical formulation is that it takes a long time to derive and prove correct. The second analysis approach addresses this by shifting the effort of the user from performance analysis to modeling the memory controller as a mode-controlled data-flow graph, which can be analyzed with existing tools. This approach is faster, but only bounds the minimum guaranteed bandwidth and not the worst-case response time. This limitation is overcome by the final approach, which is to model the memory controller using timed automata and bound its worst-case performance using a model checker. So, in summary, one controller architecture and three approaches to analyse its worst-case performance. This work hence gives unique insight into the strengths and weaknesses of different modeling and analysis approaches in terms of accuracy, expressiveness, memory consumption, and computation time.

The defense itself was well-prepared and confident and the committee seemed to really like the work. I am also really pleased with how it came out and I would like to thank Yonghui for the years of hard work that went into creating it. It was a pleasure to work with you during these years and I wish you all the best in your future career.

Journal Article Accepted in ACM TODAES

We just received the good news that Hazem’s article “ Reducing the Complexity of Dataflow Graphs using Slack-based Merging” has been accepted for publication in ACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems (TODAES). The article addresses an important problem when working with synchronous data-flow (SDF) graphs, namely that the size of the graph explodes when transforming it to its equivalent homogeneous (HSDF) representation, which prevents any design or analysis algorithms requiring this transformation as a first step from scaling to larger graphs. In the scope of Hazem’s work, this has caused problems when converting an SDF graph into a set of independent periodic real-time tasks.

This article proposes a heuristic algorithm to reduce the size of the resulting HSDF graph prior to analysis by merging actors in the graph, thereby speeding up analysis algorithms using the resulting graph. Three key properties of the algorithm are: 1) it cannot violate the latency or throughput requirements of the original graph, 2) it cannot cause deadlock in the resulting merged graph, and 3) only HSDF actors corresponding to firings of the same SDF actor can be merged to enable the resulting merged graph to be efficiently used by mapping algorithms. The behavior of the algorithm is evaluated with applications from the SDF3 benchmark suite and it is compared to results of an optimal exhaustive merging algorithm for smaller graphs.

Paper Accepted at RTAS 2016

Yonghui Li is on a roll! Two months ago he received the best paper award at ESTIMEDIA for his work on modelling and analysis of a dynamically scheduled DRAM controller using mode-controlled data-flow graphs. Now, he just had a paper entitled “Modeling and Verification of Dynamic Command Scheduling for Real-Time Memory Controllers” that models and analyses the same memory controller using timed atomata. A key highlight of this work is that it quantitatively compares data-flow analysis, timed automata, and two other approaches from Yonghui’s 2015 article in Real-Time Systems in terms of guaranteed bandwidth and worst-case execution time. This gives interesting insights into what these different approaches can and cannot model and what the impact of those limitations are on the performance guarantees. This work was the result of a fruitful collaboration with Kai Lampka from Uppsala University in Sweden.

Hazem Ali in HiPEAC Newsletter

Last year, my PhD student Hazem Ali got a HiPEAC collaboration grant sponsoring a three month visit in the Electronic Systems group at Eindhoven University of Technology, hosted by Dr. Sander Stuijk. The topic of the joint research is related to the borderland between data-flow and traditional real-time analysis. On page 15 in the latest issue of the HiPEAC Newsletter, you can read more about his stay.

Yonghui Li Wins Best Paper Award at ESTIMEDIA

We won the Best Paper Award at the 13th IEEE Symposium on Embedded Systems for Real-Time Multimedia (ESTIMedia) for our paper “Mode-Controlled Data-Flow Modeling of Real-Time Memory Controllers“. The paper was first-authored by Yonghui Li and was a successful collaboration with Orlando Moreira (previously with ST-Ericsson, currently with Intel) and two of his PhD students at Eindhoven University of Technology. We are happy that our work was well-received and hope the community will like the paper.

Paper about Data-Flow Modeling of Memory Controllers at ESTIMEDIA

Yonghui Li is having a good month. Last week he was notified that his journal article was accepted by the Real-Time Systems journal. This week, his paper “Mode-Controlled Data-Flow Modeling of Real-Time Memory Controllers” was accepted for presentation at the 13th IEEE Symposium on Embedded Systems for Real-Time Multimedia (ESTIMedia), a symposium that is a part of the Embedded Systems week in Amsterdam.

The paper is a collaboration with Orlando Moreira (previously with ST-Ericsson, currently with Intel) and his PhD students and continues Yonghui’s work on design and analysis of dynamically scheduled memory controllers. This work presents a mode-controlled data-flow model of the memory controller, which is used to derive bounds on the worst-case bandwidth for requests with variable sizes. An important difference with Yonghui’s earlier work is that this paper extends an existing model of computation to capture the memory controller and uses existing tools to do the analysis. This contrasts to his previous work where the analysis was done from scratch and required a lot of manual proofs. Examining this trade-off between modeling and analysis effort and quality of the results is a red thread through all of Yonghui’s work and is expected to be the main topic of his thesis.

ACM TECS Accepts Another Journal Article

ACM Transaction of Embedded Computing Systems (TECS) recently informed us that our article “Maximizing the Number of Good Dies for Streaming Applications in NoC-based MPSoCs under Process Variation” has been accepted for publication. This work nicely summarizes the dissertation of Davit Mirzoyan from his four year PhD studies at Delft University of Technology under the supervision of Kees Goossens and myself.

The article addresses design of real-time systems for streaming applications constrained by a throughput requirement with reduced design margins, referred to as better than worst-case design. The first contribution is a complete modeling framework that captures a streaming application mapped to a NoC-based multiprocessor system with voltage-frequency islands under process-induced die-to-die and within-die frequency variations. The framework is used to analyze the impact of variations in the frequency of hardware components on application throughput at the system level. The second contribution is a methodology to use the proposed framework and estimate the impact of reducing circuit design margins on the number of good dies that satisfy the throughput requirement of a real-time streaming application. It is shown on both synthetic and real applications that the proposed design approach can increase the number of good dies by up to 9.6% and 18.8% for designs with and without fixed SRAM and IO blocks, respectively.

Two Articles Appeared in Journal of Systems Architecture

Two articles that were submitted to a Journal of Systems Architecture Special Issue on High-performance and Real-time Embedded Systems have now appeared online. The first article is called “T-CREST: Time-predictable Multi-Core Architecture for Embedded Systems” and summarizes the work done in the recently concluded FP7 STREP project T-CREST, where me and my students worked on time-predictable memory controllers.

The second article is entitled “Dataflow Formalisation of Real-Time Streaming Applications on a Composable and Predictable Multi-Processor SOC” and shows how data-flow graphs can be used to model streaming applications mapped to the CompSoc platform and predict its minimum throughput. The basic idea is to start from a data-flow graph of the application and add additional nodes and edges that capture the mapping and timing behavior of all hardware components software libraries, and schedulers in the system. The approach is verified by comparing the predicted performance to the actual performance of an application executing on a CompSoc instance on an FPGA. The article clearly demonstrates the potential of modeling systems in which the behavior of all hardware and software components are known.