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Arm’s Architecture Formal Team Recognized for Outstanding Engineering Innovation

The team win the Royal Academy of Engineering's Colin Campbell Mitchell Award for their significant contribution to UK-based engineering.
By Arm Editorial Team

The Architecture Formal Team at Arm plays a vital role in defining how the systems designed by Arm behave, which formalizes certain parts of the Arm architecture.

The team’s innovative work was officially recognized by the UK engineering community, as it was presented with the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Colin Campbell Mitchell Award at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Fellow Day in London on 6th June 2024.

This award is given to an engineer, or team of engineers, who have made an outstanding contribution in any field of UK engineering within the past four years. The Architecture Formal Team who received the award includes Professor Jade Alglave FREng, Dr Artem Khyzha, Dr Roman Manevich, Dr Nikos Nikoleris, Hugo O’Keeffe, and Hadrien Renaud (pictured below).

Arm’s Architecture Formal Team at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Fellow Day

The team’s work originated from Jade and Luc Maranget who created a mathematical model for an area of the Arm architecture called the memory model. This describes how concurrent programs written using Arm assembly instructions should behave.

In the context of silicon design, concurrency is vital because multiprocessor chips feature several processing elements that perform tasks in parallel. These processing elements need to communicate with one another to perform computing tasks, which may lead to subtle bugs.

Arm’s EVP and Chief Architect Richard Grisenthwaite recognized the potential value of Jade and Luc’s work nearly a decade ago, which led to Jade joining Arm and then creating and growing the Architecture Formal Team. The creation and subsequent expansion of the team is in recognition of the importance of formal specifications in the technology industry, which are now seen as relatively feasible industrial investments.

The Architecture Formal Team is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the formal memory model of the Arm architecture. The model can also be used to look for bugs in chip designs ahead of deployment, which is important since fixing hardware afterwards can be expensive and time consuming. The team is also developing a formal and executable definition of the Architecture Specification Language (ASL), which is used at Arm to describe how instructions operate. Both these efforts should lead to more reliable and predictable computing systems.

The work of the team has already had an impact, with Arm’s original informal prose memory model description now replaced with a specification which is automatically generated from the formal model created by the team. This is a unique and innovative approach to formal specifications in the technology industry.

Richard Grisenthwaite, EVP and Chief Architect at Arm, says: “Knowing exactly how systems behave is of paramount importance in chip design. I’m extremely proud of the team’s achievement and this work will empower chip designers to detect bugs in their designs earlier, enabling more efficient and secure Arm-based computing systems, with device functionality being further enhanced.”

The models are publicly available [1] and the tools are open-source [2,3], allowing researchers to use industrial models and widening the impact of their work. Hardware and software vendors can also use the models and tools to check the compliance of their systems.

The work of the Architecture Formal Team exemplifies Arm’s continuous efforts to deliver the very best architecture and supporting features to our broad ecosystem of partners. This is enabling them to build and create the very best computing systems, devices and experiences on Arm.




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