Architectures and operating systems

Explores the operational structure of a system and the software which abstracts a system’s hardware and presents a precise, well-defined interface to higher levels of software/applications. Encompassing hardware and software aspects of computing systems, this research area aims to ensure, for example, correct resource management and efficient execution, and typically explores: process, file and storage management, security, and fault tolerance; parallel, heterogeneous and/or reconfigurable architectures; virtualisation, novel approaches to High Performance Computing (HPC), and distributed and/or autonomous systems.

This research area is important for the creation of safe, secure, scalable, robust and reliable systems. The UK currently has the capacity and expertise to make transformational contributions, particularly in relation to parallel and distributed architectures, heterogeneous systems and autonomous systems.

By the end of the current Delivery Plan, we aim to have:

  • Researchers working across hardware and software interfaces, strengthening the overlap between research areas such as Microelectronics Design and areas such as Programming Languages and Compilers or Software Engineering. This is an opportunity for researchers to contribute to the aim of EPSRC's Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation cross-Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) priority
  • Supported a portfolio of research in this area which underpins new advances in intelligent systems by ensuring safety and reliability of decision-making technologies, contributing to EPSRC's Future Intelligent Technologies cross-ICT priority
  • Preserved the high level of UK expertise in parallel hardware architectures, distributed computation and managing performance of software systems which provide the capacity to respond to emerging challenges (e.g. performance, scalability, resilience, security, virtualisation, reliability and energy efficiency)
  • Maintained a portfolio of projects and researchers able to address the most significant challenges in cyber-security and safe, secure ICT, and develop systems that are reliable and robust in the face of unpredictable events. Researchers should reflect on how they can address the challenges described in EPSRC's Safe and Secure ICT priority.

Demands on processing (scale and speed) mean that conventional architectures are being stretched to their limits and new architectures (in hardware and software) are needed. (Evidence source 1,2) This research area supports an emerging transition towards computer systems with energy-efficient parallel architectures. It underpins research areas including Software Engineering, Programming Languages and Compilers, and Operational Research.

This is an area with a high level of international collaboration, as evidenced by the prominence of UK researchers in international projects such as the European Network on High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation (HiPEAC). (Evidence source 3) The UK hosts a centre of excellence in HPC and a portfolio of HPC facilities that can support research in this area (e.g. in enabling robust comparison of architecture performance). The UK is also involved in global collaborations on middleware and architecture tools.

Major industrial partners such as ARM, Microsoft, AMD, Amazon, IBM, Intel and Samsung choose to work with UK researchers, demonstrating the high quality of UK research in this area (Evidence source 1,2). The UK has particular strength in parallel hardware architectures, distributed systems, autonomous systems and increasing complexity associated with organising and managing software systems (Evidence source 1). There is potential for transformative research, particularly in relation to big data, machine learning and parallel architectures. (Evidence source 1,2)

Architectures and Operating Systems has great potential to influence cyber-security, as determined in consultation with the UK cyber-security research community (Evidence source 1,4). The increasing importance of cyber-security due to the Internet of Things (IoT) and pervasive and ubiquitous computing will present a huge range of challenges to researchers in this area which they will need to address (Evidence source 1,4). Architecture is crucial to providing the capacity for robust systems, and maintaining UK expertise in this field is deemed particularly important for UK cyber-security (Evidence source 1).

The UK has a good level of student support in this area (Evidence source 5). Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) include strong links with software engineering and industry. A number of students are also funded through Industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (CASE) (Evidence source 5). The UK's current research capacity in this area is considered appropriate to address the research challenges.

This research areas is expected to contribute to the Connected and Resilient Nation Outcomes, with particular relevance to the following Ambitions:

C1: Enable a competitive, data-driven economy

This research area can contribute to creation of an effective software and HPC infrastructure at a national, regional and local level, to support data analytics and statistical techniques.

C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things

This area can help develop robust, affordable, safety-critical and secure Internet of Things systems.

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

This area will contribute to developing a foundation of systems to underpin development of smart tools and technologies.

C4: Ensure a safe and trusted cyber society

This area can produce trusted tools, technologies and frameworks for people and businesses to transact their digital lives online, and underpin security for data analytics.

R3: Develop better solutions to acute threats: cyber, defence, financial and health

This area can contribute to reliable UK computing infrastructure by enabling resilient, safe, secure critical systems.

  1. Community and user engagement (individual input, group feedback, team visits/events and evidence-gathering activities).
  2. Input from the ICT Strategic Advisory Team, the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) Executive Committee and Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 panellists.
  3. M. Duranton et al., HiPEAC Vision 2015, (2015).
  4. National Audit Office (NAO), The UK Cyber Security Strategy: Landscape Review, (2013).
  5. Analysis of EPSRC data (grant data, application statistics, portfolio funding landscape).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.


Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
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EPSRC support by research area in Architectures and operating systems (GoW)
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Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: ICT Theme
Department: ICT
Organisation: EPSRC