HiPEAC’s Vision for a New Cyber Era, a ‘Continuum of Computing’

By Tiffany Trader

January 21, 2021

Earlier this week (Jan. 19), HiPEAC — the European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation — published the 8th edition of the HiPEAC Vision, detailing an increasingly interconnected computing landscape where complex tasks are carried out across multiple systems and multiple technologies. HiPEAC refers to this as the “Continuum of Computing.”

“We are now seeing a continuum of computing that spans from tiny devices on the edge to huge global-scale distributed systems,” the report notes. “The emergence of new workloads such as deep learning and large-scale industrial cyber-physical systems has led to a series of new challenges related to non-functional properties such as power consumption, timing, complexity, security, safety and sustainability.”

“The 2021 Vision looks at how all the pieces can – and should – fit together,” says Professor Koen De Bosschere (Ghent University), the HiPEAC network coordinator. The guiding principle and ultimate goal is to “keep it simple for humans, and let the computer do the hard work.”

The 228-page document (accessible here) describes a technological vision in full bloom since the birth of the internet some three decades ago. Familiar topics such as IoT, cybersecurity, “as-a-service” trends, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, etc. are explored holistically under the “continuum of computing” rubric and via the lens of four core dimensions — societal, business, European and technical.

The confluence of multiple ripening technologies is setting the stage for a new cyber era, and the emergence of the “next web,” where distributed intelligence is both the goal and the challenge.

“We are now truly in the era of cyber-physical systems – think of self-driving cars, healthcare monitoring devices or factory automation – and these systems are going to be enhanced with artificial intelligence. This will bring with it increased need for trust, autonomy, safety, security and efficiency,” observes HiPEAC Vision Coordinator Marc Duranton (CEA). “Systems will need to work more and more with each other, and applications will be distributed, becoming a ‘continuum of computing’ across platforms and devices, from the deep edge to the cloud, HPC and data centres.”

Duranton and co-authors Michael Malms and Marcin Ostas explain:

“[A]pplications are [no longer] built around a single piece of code running on a single machine, but span across various computing resources distributed in multiple locations. The notion of a continuum of computing … denotes a set of computing resources and software (the smartphone, the communication infrastructure, the cloud) acting together in order to complete a complex task involving multiple systems and multiple technologies,” they write in one article-chapter (“The continuum of computing”).

Software is also becoming increasingly distributed, they observe. It too is becoming a “continuum of computing” across platforms and devices, at the edge, the datacenter and in the cloud. 

“Programming will need to be reinvented with languages and tools to orchestrate collaborative distributed and decentralized components, as well as components augmented with interface contracts covering both functional and non-functional properties,” the authors assert. “Data collected by deep-edge devices is concentrated and processed by edge computing, consolidated by federations of systems (fog computing) or, if required, travels to the cloud or to HPC centres to feed simulations that facilitate decisions on actions to be taken, e.g. for managing fleets of vehicles, complex factories or air traffic, therefore closing the loop.”

In another article-chapter (“The position of Europe in the world”), De Bosschere holds that the number one computational market opportunity for Europe is embedded systems, including IoT, cyber-physical systems (CPS), and edge intelligence.

“Europe has the second largest economy in the world, it has a number of world-class players producing the key enabling technology for advanced embedded systems, and it has strong transportation and health industries,” he writes. “Furthermore, there are no non-European dominant companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon or Microsoft (GAFAM) in this space yet. The stars of the CPS era will probably not be the same as those of the internet era (which are different from those of the mainframe era). Could the company dominating computing in 2030 be European? The only way to win this race is to create as many innovative start-ups as possible, support them to scale up, and hope that they will become world leaders.”

To propel the adoption of its recommendations, HiPEAC is proposing a multidisciplinary moonshot ‘‘Guardian Angels” program, which draws from existing technologies across disciplines to protect the assets of internet users and ensure a trustworthy interface between the real world and cyberspace.

At the core of the program are advanced trusted orchestrators, called “Guardian Angels,” lightweight “loyal to user” applications that protect connected devices. This goal is to set the stage for the “next web,” HiPEAC’s term for the distributed digital platform that will “intertwine the cyber and physical worlds for industrial and personal use, … overcoming the fragmentation of vertically-oriented closed systems, the heterogeneity and the lack of interoperability.”

HiPEAC notes that the rapid computing transformations in the last decade have also inspired a new cadence for disseminating its vision. Instead of following an every two year cadence, HiPEAC is moving towards a continuous publishing model. In addition to the set of recommendations for the HiPEAC community, they are producing topical articles at regular intervals. “This will guarantee that the HiPEAC Vision keeps evolving and remains up to date,” note the authors.

Commissioned by the European Commission, the vision report promotes European interests, however much of the the analysis and guidance apply broadly; there’s something for everyone working in the digital economy.

It will come as no surprise that the impact of COVID-19 features prominently in this edition. The authors note the pandemic “has made clear that the current infrastructure is not yet able to support generalized remote activities such as teaching, working, shopping, and streaming.”

Here’s a sampling of the nearly 30 articles in the 2021 HiPEAC Vision report:

Reversing John von Neumann and Steve Jobs, but not software By Thomas Hoberg

Privacy: whether you’re aware of it or not, it does matter! By Bart Coppens and Olivier Zendra 

Taming the IT systems complexity hydra By Olivier Zendra and Koen De Bosschere 

Silicon technology is still in the game By Carlo Reita, Sandrine Cheramy and Marc Duranton

Towards operational quantum computing? Or: thinking beyond qubits By Christian Gamrat

Silicon technology is still in the game By Carlo Reita, Sandrine Cheramy and Marc Duranton

AI for a better society By Koen De Bosschere

COVID-19 is more than a pandemic By Koen De Bosschere

Rethinking education By Koen De Bosschere and Tullio Vardaneg

Extreme reuse: the only future any code can afford By Thomas Hoberg

Everything as a service By Koen De Bosschere and Marc Duranton

Access the full report here – link to PDF

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