[erlang-questions] FPGA coming around the corner

Edmond Begumisa <>
Sat Jan 8 17:35:48 CET 2011

On Sat, 08 Jan 2011 21:00:23 +1100, Ulf Wiger  
<> wrote:

> On 7 Jan 2011, at 05:40, Edmond Begumisa wrote:
>> They all sound panic-stricken and suggest there is currently no  
>> complete viable solution out-there yet to programming for the  
>> multi-core age that don't burden the programmer. These are some very  
>> smart people. But when I saw these videos recently I thought "Have they  
>> not heard of Erlang? If not why not?"
> Legacy software, sticking to their familiar paradigms, …
> I also am reminded of Todd Proebsting's talk on "Disruptive Language  
> Technologies" at the MIT LL2 workshop 2002 (same workshop where Joe  
> first used the "nine nines" figure).
> http://ll2.ai.mit.edu/talks/proebsting.ppt
> He actually used a slightly different set of slides in his talk, and  
> proclaimed
> Erlang as THE answer for disruptive concurrent language.

Two statements stood out for me here...

1. "…Established [languages] concentrate on primary differentiator -  

This probably explains what the panic is about in other language camps.  
The worry that the speed differentiator is being threatened. That programs  
might run slower unless big adaptations are made to programming for SMP.  
Hmmmm... maybe this is a sign!

2. "…My criteria: [destructive] technology must
    - Have disadvantages
    - Be mostly ignored by recent PLD and POPL conferences*
    - Alleviate real problems…"

* Answers my original question!

> An interesting strategy might then be to focus more on an emerging market
> rather than trying to beat the giants on their own game.
> I've been watching the evolution of a new breed of mobile device  
> hardware,
> waiting for them to become suitable for running Erlang on. Today, they  
> are.
> My Samsung Galaxy S is a significantly more powerful computer than the
> UltraSPARCs we first used to run Erlang on the AXD 301. The latest ARM
> design (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/09/new_arm/) is a system-on-
> a-chip design with up to 16 cores running at up to 2.5GHz. Programming
> that with a low-level shared memory approach is going to be a significant
> challenge…

I'm very interested in Mobile too! For the current projects I'm working  
on, being able to deploy on mobiles in addition to boxes would give us  
huge advantages in countries where we intend to ship (across the  
developing world.) I was excited when I saw some determined folks had  
managed to get Erlang running on a Maemo Nokia N900 and an Android HTC  


SMP Erlang on mobile sounds really cool :) Too bad about the annoying  
iPhone issues though :(

> The challenge in the mobile device space is (at least) twofold:
> - Must minimize power consumptio
> - Support increasingly complex demands on software
> A problem is that there is a fairly clear answer to the speed/Watt  
> question:
> lower the clock frequency and replicate the cores. The problem is that  
> this
> makes it harder to program the device using traditional techniques, which
> counteracts the second issue… unless you use something like Erlang,
> which does well on both counts.
> In this context, NIFs also become highly relevant, as a nice way to  
> interface
> to libraries and custom chip features (GPUs, DSP functionality, etc,  
> which
> are another key factor in getting performance on low-power chips.)
> Erlang has always had a conceptually nice approach to interfacing and
> controlling external hardware.
> I think there is huge potential for a language that loves multicore and  
> is
> strong on coordination and fault tolerance, on the new generation of
> mobile device hardware.

I agree 110.

Maybe Erickson can ship some official packaged mobile releases even for  
the current generation. It's still early days, not too late to attract  
developers starting afresh in the mobile sector. A painless-to-install  
language environment might be the difference in getting people to write  
their first mobile application in Erlang and not some other tool.

- Edmond -

> BR,
> Ulf W
> Ulf Wiger, CTO, Erlang Solutions, Ltd.
> http://erlang-solutions.com

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