Keynote Speakers

John Watson, Micron, USA


Education is not learning facts, but training the mind to think


In engineering, things are fairly black and white; systems either work or they don’t; life is relatively simple. In business people get in the way; nothing is easy, nothing is simple and many decisions result in large technical compromises.
This talk covers a short professional history highlighting insights gained from being close to the start of the IC business (while it was the wild, wild west) and from tying together a life-long interest in programmable logic and cars with the coming AI/ML evolution. Surprisingly, reconfigurable computing may still hold the keys to the future.

In almost 40 years, I have held many engineering and marketing positions in large multi-national companies and small engineering firms.
I was the first Xilinx employee with the term Reconfigurable Computing in their job title, attended the first FCCM and formed a small group that focused Xilinx on the DSP market. During this time I vetted and seeded 20+ start-ups using FPGAs for DSP applications.
I co-founded several start-ups focused on developing new forms of computing utilizing biological properties; these included ICs which dynamically changed their hardware architectures on every clock cycle to the ability for IC devices to detect and resist failure by finding on-the-fly work-arounds.
I also helped start industry initiatives such as the Software Defined Radio Forum, the PCMCIA Forum, and started the first Programmable Logic conference under EE Times.

Christian Plessl, Paderborn University, Germany


FPGA-accelerated High-Performance Computing – Close to Breakthrough or Pipedream?


Numerous results in reconfigurable computing research suggest that FPGAs are able to deliver greatly improved performance or energy efficiency for many computationally demanding applications. This potential is being exploited by hyperscale cloud providers, which have recently deployed large scale installations with FPGA. In contrast, FPGAs have not had any significant impact on general purpose HPC installations so far.
In this keynote, I will try to shed some light on the reasons for this development and the apparent gap between the promise and reality for FPGAs in HPC. I will discuss what the reconfigurable computing research community can and needs to provide to attract more interest from HPC users and suppliers. To highlight practical challenges, I will share some of our experiences at the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing, where have recently commissioned two HPC testbed clusters with FPGAs and where we are currently planning to deploy FPGAs at a larger scale in our production HPC systems.  

Christian Plessl is professor for High-Performance IT Systems at Paderborn University, Germany. He has lead and been involved in numerous research projects studying reconfigurable architectures, design flows, runtime systems and the application of FPGAs in HPC. His research has been recognized with several awards, e.g. the ReConFig Best Paper Awards in 2014 and 2012 and the FPL significant paper award in 2015. In addition to his professor position, Christian is also the director of the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing (PC²), which is Paderborn University’s HPC center providing computing resources for computational sciences at Paderborn University and Germany-wide. Leveraging the longstanding expertise in FPGA acceleration in Paderborn, PC² will start to deploy production HPC clusters with FPGAs starting with the next upgrades of the HPC infrastructure in 2018 and 2021.