Computers are pretty much at the core of everything we do and in every field in this world. But computers are more than just mere apparatus that performs routine calculations automatically. They have over the decades proved capable of solving a vast array of problems, from balancing a checkbook to even, designed guidance systems for robots to even complex medical and scientific research.
“The rate of progress in computing and technology is increasing at warp speed. A commonly-held computational truism, known as Moore’s Law, asserts that computer processor performance doubles every 18 months,” says Devesh Tiwari, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering at Northeastern University. However, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to maintain the now advanced computing processor’s reliability and efficiency, which leads to high operational cost.
Titan—the largest supercomputer in the U.S., and the computer behind some of the most important scientific research in the world—requires eight megawatts of energy to run at peak performance. “That’s enough electricity to power a small city,” says Tiwari. Titan is currently funded by the U.S. Department of Energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
“When you have a scientist studying things like astrophysics or neurology, the computational part can get in the way of his true research if it’s not working correctly,” Tiwari said. “The technology has to be really solid and really dependable,” he says. Thus, Tiwari’s research focuses on just that: developing new ways to make large-scale computing systems sustainable by making them more resilient and more energy-efficient, thereby reducing operational costs and increasing the productivity of the scientists using the computers.
“And it’s not just far-flung supercomputers that need to be updated. In a world that increasingly relies on vast computer networks for basic functions like banking and electricity, much of these systems are alarmingly ad-hoc and suboptimal,” Tiwari said.
“My big dream—which I believe is achievable—is creating a society where the complex infrastructures of health care, medical devices, advanced manufacturing, transportation systems, and power grids are sustainable and resilient,” he said. “It has to be healthy all the time. Only then can we truly build on it to make progress.”