Richard C. Murphy
Senior Advance Memory Systems Architect, DRAM Solutions Group, Micron
Richard C. Murphy is no stranger to the HPCwire People to Watch list, having been featured in past years for his work as the lead of Sandia’s X-caliber project. Among other roles, Murphy is currently a Senior Advanced Memory Systems Architect for Micron’s DRAM Solutions Group, and is earning the acclaim of his colleagues in HPC. With memory innovation on the rise, we caught up with Murphy to talk about the news happening at Micron, and the direction of the industry in general.
HPCwire: Micron has started to push in interesting directions with such initiatives as the Hybrid Memory Cube, which Fujitsu has integrated into a supercomputer, and the new Automata processor announced at SC13 in Denver. What are the fundamental thoughts behind the direction that Micron is driving in and what can we look forward to in 2014?
Richard Murphy: I came to Micron at the end of 2012 because it’s an extremely innovative place. I think that memory technology has long been kind of underrated or underappreciated in the industry. The focus for a very long time has been how you can get the cheapest bits possible. I think what you’re seeing in general is a recognition that memory has a lot to contribute to the overall performance of the system.
So the Hybrid Memory Cube and the Automata Processor are really great examples of advanced things that we can do with memory architecture to benefit the overall system level performance of a set of important applications. I for one have been following the HMC for a very long time, so I was very excited that we were able to announce the Fujitsu integration at SC13.
HPCwire: With Automata launching this year, what sort of applications do you think we’ll start to see the new architecture in? What do you project as the future of this new architecture?
Richard Murphy: I think the AP is pretty innovative. I think that if you look at the application set that was covered at SC13, they talked about bioinformatics, cybersecurity, and large-scale data analysis. But the real contribution, at least from my perspective, is that the AP represents a really great way of exploiting the capability of DRAM. So for those that don’t know DRAM is actually fabbed in a different fabrication process from logic. In some sense, there’s a lot more density in storage than you could do from anything else obviously because that’s what the process is optimized for. But that leads to architectures that are really, really highly parallel. As a result of that, I think what you can see when you look at something like the AP is a really great example of how to exploit that parallelism for performance gain. I’m hoping we’re going to see more interesting stuff like that as we go along.
HPCwire: Generally speaking, on the subject of High Performance Computing, what do you see as the most important trends happening in 2014 that will have an impact now and into the future?
Richard Murphy: It occurred to me late last year that we actually just finished up the first decade of the multicore era. I think I saw my first multicore prototype when I was at SUN in 2001, maybe early 2002. If you look at the scaling trends, it was really 2003 when we fell off a cliff in terms of being able to continue to crank clock rate because Dennard scaling sort of hit a wall.
I think this year, you’re going to sort of see the second decade of this multicore effect. What’s interesting to me is that computing is becoming a lot more about computer architecture than about fabrication process these days. In the past there were probably 25 years where computer architecture didn’t matter because you basically could count on whatever was coming out of a high end logic fab as roughly doubling in performance every 18 months.
Now what you’re seeing is increased parallelism, and I think you’re going to have to end up seeing more creativity in the architectures as well. If you really look at SC this year, there were some really great examples both in memory and in logic of new architectures and advanced things that people are thinking about doing, and I think that trend is going to continue very strongly in 2014.
HPCwire: On a personal note, can you talk about your personal life? Your family, background, any hobbies?
Richard Murphy: Well, I’ve got a wonderful wife who actually also has a Ph.D. in computer engineering, and I’ve got three daughters all of which are under 6 years old, so that keeps me kind of busy.
HPCwire: Final Question: Is there anything about yourself that you can share that you think your colleagues would be surprised to learn?
Richard Murphy: That’s a hard one to answer. The only thing I could think of is that I actually have a liberal arts degree in addition to my engineering degrees. I kind of got bored just doing math in college, so I ended up with a second undergrad degree in government. What’s funny about that is because I ended up staying at Notre Dame, I ended up with four degrees at Notre Dame, and I think there are only about a dozen of us who have done that in the past.