Upgrade to Pro — share decks privately, control downloads, hide ads and more …

Predicting the Present

Predicting the Present

Talk given at Scylla Summit 2022. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4-u0SSG2bQ

Bryan Cantrill

February 10, 2022
Tweet

More Decks by Bryan Cantrill

Other Decks in Technology

Transcript

  1. Predicting the Present
    Presenter’s Name
    Job Title
    Bryan Cantrill
    Oxide Computer Company

    View full-size slide

  2. OXIDE
    The power of predictions
    • As technologists, we live partially in the future: we are always making
    implicit bets based on our predictions of what the future will bring
    • To better understand our predictions of the future, it can be helpful to
    understand the past – and especially our past predictions of the future
    • E.g., for nearly a decade starting in 2000, a group of us gathered each
    new year to make (and write down!) 1-, 3- and 6-year predictions…
    • These were often both surprisingly right on trajectory – and stunningly
    wrong on timing

    View full-size slide

  3. OXIDE
    Aside: Dire predictions
    • Dire predictions are compelling, viz. The Population Bomb (1968), Silicon
    Snake Oil (1995), Time Bomb 2000 (1999)
    • Even the wrong ones are often not entirely wrong – they contain
    important truths
    • But dire predictions often also ignore human adaptability: yes, bad
    things happen, but humans are adaptable – technologists especially so!
    • Dire predictions should not be summarily dismissed, but nor should they
    be unquestioningly accepted – however authoritative they may seem

    View full-size slide

  4. OXIDE
    Some of our predictions from the aughts…
    • 6-year, 2000: “Most CPUs have four or more cores”
    • 3-year, 2003: “Apple develops new ‘must-have’ gadget: iPhone. Digital
    camera/MP3 player/cell phone” (!!)
    • 6-year, 2003: “Internet BW grows to the point that TV broadcasters
    become largely irrelevant; former TV networks begin internet
    broadcasts”
    • 6-year, 2004: “9/11-scale economic shock caused by single virus”

    View full-size slide

  5. OXIDE
    Some of our predictions from the aughts…
    • 3-year, 2004: “Friendster killed by friends.google.com”
    • 6-year, 2004: “Term ‘long distance’ falls out of telco lexicon”
    • 1-year, 2005: “Spam turns corner, less of a problem than year before”
    • 1-year, 2006: “Google embarrassed by revelation of unauthorized US
    government spying at GMail”
    • 6-year, 2006: “Volume CPUs still less than 5 GHz”
    • 6-year, 2006: “Wireless 3D video ‘iGlasses’ (w/ear-buds) latest ‘it’
    gadget”

    View full-size slide

  6. OXIDE
    Reflecting on predictions
    • Looking back on our predictions, they tell us much more about the
    present than the future!
    • Longer term predictions were more likely to be accurate than shorter
    term ones – and much more likely to be interesting!
    • We entirely missed important trends like cloud computing and
    software-as-a-service!

    View full-size slide

  7. OXIDE
    Missed predictions
    • More generally, we missed the ramifications of the broadening of trends
    that that we already understood to be transformational, e.g.:
    ○ The Internet
    ○ Distributed version control
    ○ Open source
    ○ Moore’s Law

    View full-size slide

  8. OXIDE
    Finding the future
    • Find those current things that clearly represent a better way of doing
    things, but are not broadly appreciated or understood
    • …which is why many technologists find the future somewhat
    accidentally: they find something that they themselves enjoy!
    • This is not foolproof or formulaic (some trends never broaden!) and likely
    to be wrong on timing – but less likely to be entirely wrong on trajectory
    • “The future has arrived – it’s not evenly distributed yet.” – William Gibson

    View full-size slide

  9. OXIDE
    Aside: Gibson’s quote
    • Gibson’s famous quote starting appearing as attributed to him in the
    early 1990s – but it is of unknown origin
    • Ironically, this idea itself seems to not have been very evenly distributed!
    “The problem is that the idea would have preceded its first recorded public
    utterance by quite some time, in the way of these things. I would assume I
    thought it, then eventually said it to friends, and that by the time I said it in an
    interview (the most likely scenario) it had become an idea I took for granted. It
    wasn’t something generated to give a talk, nor was it in some essay or article.”
    – William Gibson in personal correspondence to Kevin Kelly, 2011
    Source: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/01/24/future-has-arrived/

    View full-size slide

  10. OXIDE
    Predicting the present, ca. 2022
    • The things that I feel I know that might not be evenly distributed:
    ○ Compute is becoming ubiquitous
    ○ Open FPGAs/HDLs are real
    ○ Open source EDA is becoming real
    ○ Open source firmware is (finally!) happening
    ○ Rust is revolutionary for deeply embedded systems

    View full-size slide

  11. OXIDE
    Ubiquitous compute
    • Computation becoming ubiquitous, meaning computers in new places
    (à la IoT) but also CPUs where we once thought of components
    • E.g., open 32-bit CPUs replacing hidden, closed 8-bit microcontrollers
    • We are already seeing CPUs on the NIC (SmartNIC), CPUs next to flash
    (e.g., open-channel SSD) and on the spindle (e.g. WD’s SweRV)
    • New opportunities for hardware/software co-design: keep hardware
    simple and put more sophistication into software and/or soft logic

    View full-size slide

  12. OXIDE
    Open FPGAs
    • FPGA bitstreams have historically been entirely proprietary -- and one is
    therefore dependent upon proprietary tools to generate them
    • The Lattice iCE40 bitstream format was reverse engineered in 2015 by
    Claire Wolf, and can be entirely synthesized with an open toolchain!
    • While Xilinx (AMD) and Alterra (Intel) retain proprietary components (e.g.,
    for timing models), newcomers like QuickLogic are entirely open
    • See, e.g., SymbiFlow, Verilog to Routing (VTR), Yosys, OpenFPGA, and
    the (new!) Open Source FPGA Foundation

    View full-size slide

  13. OXIDE
    Open HDLs
    • Hardware description languages have traditionally been dominated by
    Verilog and (later) SystemVerilog
    • Compilers have been historically proprietary -- and the languages
    themselves are error prone
    • In recent years we have seen a wave of new, open HDLs, e.g.: Chisel,
    nMigen, Bluespec, SpinalHDL, Mamba (PyMTL 3), HardCaml
    • Of these, Bluespec is especially interesting!

    View full-size slide

  14. OXIDE
    Open source EDA
    • Proprietary software has historically dominated EDA…
    • Open source alternatives have existed for years -- but one in particular,
    KiCad, has enjoyed sufficiently broad sponsorship to close the gaps with
    professional-grade software
    • The maturity of KiCad (especially KiCad 6!) coupled with the rise of quick
    turn PCB manufacturing/assembly has allowed for astonishing speed:
    ○ From conception to manufacturer in hours
    ○ From manufacturer to shipping board in days

    View full-size slide

  15. OXIDE
    Open source firmware
    • The software that runs closest to the hardware is increasingly open, with
    drivers nearly (nearly!) always open
    • Increasingly, we are seeing the firmware of unseen parts of the system
    become open as well, viz. the Open Source Firmware Conference
    • This trend is slower in the 7nm SoCs -- but it’s happening!
    • However, even in putatively open architectures, there generally still
    remains proprietary software in the form of boot ROMs -- and this
    proprietary software remains a problem!

    View full-size slide

  16. OXIDE
    Embedded Rust
    • Rust has proven to be a revolution for systems software: rich type
    system, algebraic types, ownership model allow for fast, correct code
    • Slightly more surprising has been Rust’s ability to get small -- which
    coupled with its lack of a runtime lets it fit everywhere!
    • With its safety and expressive power, Rust represents a quantum leap
    over C -- and without losing performance or sacrificing size
    • Viz. Hubris, the de novo Rust operating system we developed at Oxide,
    now open source: https://oxide.computer/blog/hubris-and-humility

    View full-size slide

  17. OXIDE
    Evenly distributing the future
    • None of these things is new per se – but they are real and tangible and
    in active daily use by us at Oxide
    • They all point to a future in which hardware and software are actively
    co-designed!
    • That so much of this is open assures that it will survive
    • The trends may take time to broaden, but the trajectory seems likely!

    View full-size slide