Retrospective : A Dynamically Configurable Coprocessor For Convolutional Neural Networks

Publication Date: 7/1/2023

Event: ISCA@50 Retrospective: 1996-2020

Reference: pp. 1-2, 2023

Authors: Srimat T. Chakradhar, NEC Laboratories America, Inc., Murugan Sankaradas, NEC Laboratories America, Inc., Venkata Jakkula, NEC Laboratories America, Inc., Srihari Cadambi, NEC Laboratories America, Inc.

Abstract: In 2008, parallel computing posed significant challenges due to the complexities of parallel programming and the bottlenecks associated with efficient parallel execution. Inspired by the remarkable scalability achieved by networking and storage systems in handling extensive packet traffic and persistent data, respectively, by leveraging best-effort service, we proposed a new and fundamentally different approach of best-effort computing. Having observed that a broad spectrum of existing and emerging computing workloads were from applications that had an inherent forgiving nature [2], [5], we proposed best effort computing. The new approach resulted in disproportionate gains in power, energy, and latency while improving performance. While contemplating the concept of best-effort computing [2], we noticed the resurgence of convolutional neural networks, which generated approximate but acceptable outcomes for numerous recognition, mining, and synthesis tasks. The lead author of this retrospective had previously conducted research on neural networks for his doctoral dissertation over a decade ago, and the reemergence of neural networks proved both surprising and exciting. Recognizing the connection between best-effort computing and convolutional neural networks, in 2008, we embarked on developing a programmable and dynamically reconfigurable convolutional neural network capable of performing best effort computing for various machine learning tasks that inherently allow for multiple acceptable answers. This combination of our thoughts on best-effort computing and the gradual evolution of convolutional neural networks (deep neural networks emerged much later) culminated in our 2010 ISCA work on dynamically reconfigurable convolutional neural networks.

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