Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

NSF, SRC Partner on Failure-Resistant Systems

April 24th, 2012 / in research horizons, resources / by Erwin Gianchandani

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC)U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) have just announced a new joint initiative — Failure-Resistant Systems (FRS) — that seeks to address “compelling research challenges in failure resistant systems that are of paramount importance to industry, academia, and society at large.”

According to the solicitation, which spans NSF’s directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Engineering (ENG) as well as the SRC (emphasis added):

New approaches in the design of electronic circuits and systems are needed for products and services that continue to operate correctly in the presence of transient, permanent, or systematic failures. From large information processing systems supporting communications and computation, to small embedded systems targeting medical and automotive applications, whole industries are facing the challenge of improving the reliability of systems [more after the jump].


Increasing miniaturization and integrated circuit fabrication processes are creating a tension between reliability and efficiency. Higher rates of faults, variation, and degradation due to aging in integrated circuits are forcing systems engineers to assume that devices and circuits may not always perform as designed. More and more, systems are constructed using IP blocks (3rd party Intellectual Property) from different sources, contributing further to unpredictable behavior. Thus behavior under adverse conditions may not be fully known in deployed systems. Current techniques for ensuring reliability, such as voltage and clock rate margins, replication, and disk-based check-pointing will not be able to satisfy the competing requirements for future integrated circuits. These techniques typically operate only at one level of the system stack, yet layers from devices to applications all contribute to system reliability. Such single-layer techniques must be used under worst-case assumptions about the other layers in the stack. This potentially leads to inefficiencies that will make these techniques impractical in future fabrication processes.


A system-level cross-layer approach to reliability, encompassing failure mechanisms of both digital and analog components, has the potential to deliver high reliability with significantly lower power and performance overheads than current single-layer techniques. By distributing reliability across the system design stack, cross-layer approaches can take advantage of the information available at each level, including even application-level knowledge, to efficiently tolerate errors, aging, and variation. This will allow handling of different physical effects at the most efficient stack layer, and can be adapted to varying application needs, operating environments, and changing hardware state.


Fundamental new advances in techniques for designing and developing systems resilient to failure could have a significant impact on multiple industries and boost their competitiveness on a global scale, helping to transform market segments and translate research results into practice.

Through this joint initiative, NSF and SRC seek to fund 15 to 20 awards, each ranging from $300,000 to $400,000 over three years.

The deadline to submit proposals is July 26, 2012.

To learn more, see the full solicitation.

And a reminder: be sure to check out a recent closely related CCC visioning activity on Cross-Layer Reliability led by Andre’ DeHonNick Carter, and Heather Quinn.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

NSF, SRC Partner on Failure-Resistant Systems