UC Irvine, along with five other universities, has received a $10 million National Science Foundation grant to develop new software techniques that dramatically reduce computer hardware design and test costs while maximizing performance with minimal energy.

The UCI team is led by Chancellor’s Professor Nikil Dutt and Professor Alex Nicolau, computer scientists in the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences and affiliates of the Center for Embedded Computer Systems. The federal grant funds projects that “promise significant advances in the computing frontier and great benefit to society.”

Dutt said a primary objective is to create software ensuring that servers and other hardware remain reliable even as they become more energy-efficient or are otherwise udpated. With semiconductor components, circuits and chips growing ever smaller, they’ve become less dependable and more expensive to produce.

The variability of behavior from device to device and over their lifetimes – due to differences in manufacturing, age, wear and operating environments – is largely ignored by today’s mainstream computer systems, leading to excessive crashes.

The project’s initial focus will be on wireless sensing, software radio and mobile platforms of all kinds – with plans to transfer advances in these early areas to the marketplace.

“A major goal is to break down the rigid interfaces between software and hardware, so that software can proactively address variability in the underlying hardware,” said Dutt. “Many demanding applications – from search engines to medical imaging – may also benefit from this research.”

He and Nicolau will develop a new class of adaptive software that’s resilient to hardware malfunctions. The work could have significant societal benefits, including improved energy efficiency of buildings, smart grids and transportation.

Led by Professor Rajesh Gupta of UC San Diego, the multi-university project also will involve researchers from UCLA, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Stanford University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

To ensure that the effort reflects real-world industry challenges, a technical advisory board has been recruited that includes executives from Hewlett-Packard, ARM, IBM and Intel.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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