Computer architecture forms the backbone of computer science. So, it comes as no surprise it’s one of the most researched fields of computing.


But what is computer architecture, and why does it matter?


Basically, computer architecture dictates every aspect of a computer’s functioning, from how it stores data to what it displays on the interface. Not to mention how the hardware and software components connect and interact.


With this in mind, it isn’t difficult to realize the importance of this structure. In fact, computer scientists did this even before they knew what to call it. The first documented computer architecture can be traced back to 1936, 23 years before the term “architecture” was first used when describing a computer. Lyle R. Johnson, an IBM senior staff member, had this honor, realizing that the word organization just doesn’t cut it.


Now that you know why you should care about it, let’s define computer architecture in more detail and outline everything you need to know about it.


Basic Components of Computer Architecture


Computer architecture is an elaborate system where each component has its place and function. You’re probably familiar with some of the basic computer architecture components, such as the CPU and memory. But do you know how those components work together? If not, we’ve got you covered.


Central Processing Unit (CPU)


The central processing unit (CPU) is at the core of any computer architecture. This hardware component only needs instructions written as binary bits to control all its surrounding components.


Think of the CPU as the conductor in an orchestra. Without the conductor, the choir is still there, but they’re waiting for instructions.


Without a functioning CPU, the other components are still there, but there’s no computing.


That’s why the CPU’s components are so important.


Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU)


Since the binary bits used as instructions by the CPU are numbers, the unit needs an arithmetic component to manipulate them.


That’s where the arithmetic logic unit, or ALU, comes into play.


The ALU is the one that receives the binary bits. Then, it performs an operation on one or more of them. The most common operations include addition, subtraction, AND, OR, and NOT.


Control Unit (CU)


As the name suggests, the control unit (CU) controls all the components of basic computer architecture. It transfers data to and from the ALU, thus dictating how each component behaves.


Registers


Registers are the storage units used by the CPU to hold the current data the ALU is manipulating. Each CPU has a limited number of these registers. For this reason, they can only store a limited amount of data temporarily.


Memory


Storing data is the main purpose of the memory of a computer system. The data in question can be instructions issued by the CPU or larger amounts of permanent data. Either way, a computer’s memory is never empty.


Traditionally, this component can be broken into primary and secondary storage.


Primary Memory


Primary memory occupies a central position in a computer system. It’s the only memory unit that can communicate with the CPU directly. It stores only programs and data currently in use.


There are two types of primary memory:


  • RAM (Random Access Memory). In computer architecture, this is equivalent to short-term memory. RAM helps start the computer and only stores data as long as the machine is on and data is being used.
  • ROM (Read Only Memory). ROM stores the data used to operate the system. Due to the importance of this data, the ROM stores information even when you turn off the computer.

Secondary Memory


With secondary memory, or auxiliary memory, there’s room for larger amounts of data (which is also permanent). However, this also means that this memory is significantly slower than its primary counterpart.


When it comes to secondary memory, there’s no shortage of choices. There are magnetic discs (hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs)) that provide fast access to stored data. And let’s not forget about optical discs (CD-ROMs and DVDs) that offer portable data storage.


Input/Output (I/O) Devices


The input/output devices allow humans to communicate with a computer. They do so by delivering or receiving data as necessary.


You’re more than likely familiar with the most widely used input devices – the keyboard and the mouse. When it comes to output devices, it’s pretty much the same. The monitor and printer are at the forefront.


Buses


When the CPU wants to communicate with other internal components, it relies on buses.


Data buses are physical signal lines that carry data. Most computer systems use three of these lines:


  • Data bus – Transmitting data from the CPU to memory and I/O devices and vice versa
  • Address bus – Carrying the address that points to the location the CPU wants to access
  • Control bus – Transferring control from one component to the other

Types of Computer Architecture


There’s more than one type of computer architecture. These types mostly share the same base components. However, the setup of these components is what makes them differ.


Von Neumann Architecture


The Von Neumann architecture was proposed by one of the originators of computer architecture as a concept, John Von Neumann. Most modern computers follow this computer architecture.


The Von Neumann architecture has several distinguishing characteristics:


  • All instructions are carried out sequentially.
  • It doesn’t differentiate between data and instruction. They’re stored in the same memory unit.
  • The CPU performs one operation at a time.

Since data and instructions are located in the same place, fetching them is simple and efficient. These two adjectives can describe working with the Von Neumann architecture in general, making it such a popular choice.


Still, there are some disadvantages to keep in mind. For starters, the CPU is often idle since it can only access one bus at a time. If an error causes a mix-up between data and instructions, you can lose important data. Also, defective programs sometimes fail to release memory, causing your computer to crash.


Harvard Architecture


Harvard architecture was named after the famed university. Or, to be more precise, after an IBM computer called “Harvard Mark I” located at the university.


The main difference between this computer architecture and the Von Neumann model is that the Harvard architecture separates the data from the instructions. Accordingly, it allocates separate data, addresses, and control buses for the separate memories.


The biggest advantage of this setup is that the buses can fetch data concurrently, minimizing idle time. The separate buses also reduce the chance of data corruption.


However, this setup also requires a more complex architecture that can be challenging to develop and implement.


Modified Harvard Architecture


Today, only specialty computers use the pure form of Harvard architecture. As for other machines, a modified Harvard architecture does the trick. These modifications aim to soften the rigid separation between data and instructions.


RISC and CISC Architectures


When it comes to processor architecture, there are two primary approaches.


The CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) processors have a single processing unit and are pretty straightforward. They tackle one task at a time. As a result, they use less memory. However, they also need more time to complete an instruction.


Over time, the speed of these processors became a problem. This led to a processor redesign, resulting in the RISC architecture.


The new and improved RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) processors feature larger registers and keep frequently used variables within the processor. Thanks to these handy functionalities, they can operate much more quickly.


Instruction Set Architecture (ISA)


Instruction set architecture (ISA) defines the instructions that the processor can read and act upon. This means ISA decides which software can be installed on a particular processor and how efficiently it can perform tasks.


There are three types of instruction set architecture. These types differ based on the placement of instructions, and their names are pretty self-explanatory. For stack-based ISA, the instructions are placed in the stack, a memory unit within the address register. The same principle applies for accumulator-based ISA (a type of register in the CPU) and register-based ISA (multiple registers within the system).


The register-based ISA is most commonly used in modern machines. You’ve probably heard of some of the most popular examples. For CISC architecture, there are x86 and MC68000. As for RISC, SPARC, MIPS, and ARM stand out.


Pipelining and Parallelism in Computer Architecture


In computer architecture, pipelining and parallelism are methods used to speed up processing.


Pipelining refers to overlapping multiple instructions and processing them simultaneously. This couldn’t be possible without a pipeline-like structure. Imagine a factory assembly line, and you’ll understand how pipelining works instantly.


This method significantly increases the number of processed instructions and comes in two types:


  • Instruction pipelines – Used for fixed-point multiplication, floating-point operations, and similar calculations
  • Arithmetic pipelines – Used for reading consecutive instructions from memory

Parallelism entails using multiple processors or cores to process data simultaneously. Thanks to this collaborative approach, large amounts of data can be processed quickly.


Computer architecture employs two types of parallelism:


  • Data parallelism – Executing the same task with multiple cores and different sets of data
  • Task parallelism – Performing different tasks with multiple cores and the same or different data

Multicore processors are crucial for increasing the efficiency of parallelism as a method.


Memory Hierarchy and Cache


In computer system architecture, memory hierarchy is essential for minimizing the time it takes to access the memory units. It refers to separating memory units based on their response times.


The most common memory hierarchy goes as follows:


  • Level 1: Processor registers
  • Level 2: Cache memory
  • Level 3: Primary memory
  • Level 4: Secondary memory

The cache memory is a small and fast memory located close to a processor core. The CPU uses it to reduce the time and energy needed to access data from the primary memory.


Cache memory can be further broken into levels.


  • L1 cache (the primary cache) – The fastest cache unit in the system
  • L2 cache (the secondary cache) – The slower but more spacious option than Level 1
  • L3 cache (a specialized cache) – The largest and the slowest cache in the system used to improve the performance of the first two levels

When it comes to determining where the data will be stored in the cache memory, three mapping techniques are employed:


  • Direct mapping – Each memory block is mapped to one pre-determined cache location
  • Associative mapping – Each memory block is mapped to a single location, but it can be any location
  • Set associative mapping – Each memory block is mapped to a subset of locations

The performance of cache memory directly impacts the overall performance of a computing system. The following cache replacement policies are used to better process big data applications:


  • FIFO (first in, first out) ­– The memory block first to enter the primary memory gets replaced first
  • LRU (least recently used) – The least recently used page is the first to be discarded
  • LFU (least frequently used) – The least frequently used element gets eliminated first

Input/Output (I/O) Systems


The input/output or I/O systems are designed to receive and send data to a computer. Without these processing systems, the computer wouldn’t be able to communicate with people and other systems and devices.


There are several types of I/O systems:


  • Programmed I/O – The CPU directly issues a command to the I/O module and waits for it to be executed
  • Interrupt-Driven I/O – The CPU moves on to other tasks after issuing a command to the I/O system
  • Direct Memory Access (DMA) – The data is transferred between the memory and I/O devices without passing through the CPU

There are three standard I/O interfaces used for physically connecting hardware devices to a computer:


  • Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI)
  • Small Computer System Interface (SATA)
  • Universal Serial Bus (USB)

Power Consumption and Performance in Computer Architecture


Power consumption has become one of the most important considerations when designing modern computer architecture. Failing to consider this aspect leads to power dissipation. This, in turn, results in higher operating costs and a shorter lifespan for the machine.


For this reason, the following techniques for reducing power consumption are of utmost importance:


  • Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS) – Scaling down the voltage based on the required performance
  • Clock gating – Shutting off the clock signal when the circuit isn’t in use
  • Power gating – Shutting off the power to circuit blocks when they’re not in use

Besides power consumption, performance is another crucial consideration in computer architecture. The performance is measured as follows:


  • Instructions per second (IPS) – Measuring efficiency at any clock frequency
  • Floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) – Measuring the numerical computing performance
  • Benchmarks – Measuring how long the computer takes to complete a series of test programs

Emerging Trends in Computer Architecture


Computer architecture is continuously evolving to meet modern computing needs. Keep your eye out on these fascinating trends:


  • Quantum computing (relying on the laws of quantum mechanics to tackle complex computing problems)
  • Neuromorphic computing (modeling the computer architecture components on the human brain)
  • Optical computing (using photons instead of electrons in digital computation for higher performance)
  • 3D chip stacking (using 3D instead of 2D chips as they’re faster, take up less space, and require less power)

A One-Way Ticket to Computing Excellence


As you can tell, computer architecture directly affects your computer’s speed and performance. This launches it to the top of priorities when building this machine.


High-performance computers might’ve been nice-to-haves at some point. But in today’s digital age, they’ve undoubtedly become a need rather than a want.


In trying to keep up with this ever-changing landscape, computer architecture is continuously evolving. The end goal is to develop an ideal system in terms of speed, memory, and interconnection of components.


And judging by the current dominant trends in this field, that ideal system is right around the corner!

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Il Sole 24 Ore: 100 thousand IT professionals missing
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 14, 2024 6 min read

Written on April 24th 2024

Source here: Il Sole 24 Ore (full article in Italian)


Open Institute of Technology: 100 thousand IT professionals missing

Eurostat data processed and disseminated by OPIT. Stem disciplines: the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%

Today, only 29% of young Italians between 25 and 34 have a degree. Not only that: compared to other European countries, the comparison is unequal given that the average in the Old Continent is 46%, bringing Italy to the penultimate place in this ranking, ahead only of Romania. The gap is evident even if the comparison is limited to STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) where the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%, with peaks of virtuosity which in the case of France that reaches 29.2%. Added to this is the continuing problem of the mismatch between job supply and demand, so much so that 62.8% of companies struggle to find professionals in the technological and IT fields.

The data

The Eurostat data was processed and disseminated by OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. an academic institution accredited at European level, active in the university level education market with online Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the technological and digital fields. We are therefore witnessing a phenomenon with worrying implications on the future of the job market in Italy and on the potential loss of competitiveness of our companies at a global level, especially if inserted in a context in which the macroeconomic scenario in the coming years will undergo a profound discontinuity linked to the arrival of “exponential” technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics, but also to the growing threats related to cybersecurity.

Requirements and updates

According to European House Ambrosetti, over 2,000,000 professionals will have to update their skills in the Digital and IT area by 2026, also to take advantage of the current 100,000 vacant IT positions, as estimated by Frank Recruitment Group. But not only that: the Italian context, which is unfavorable for providing the job market with graduates and skills, also has its roots in the chronic birth rate that characterizes our country: according to ISTAT data, in recent years the number of newborns has fallen by 28%, bringing Italy’s birth rate to 1.24, among the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.46.

Profumo: “Structural deficiency”

“The chronic problem of the absence of IT professionals is structural and of a dual nature: on one hand the number of newborns – therefore, potential “professionals of the future” – is constantly decreasing; on the other hand, the percentage of young people who acquires degrees are firmly among the lowest in Europe”, declared Francesco Profumo, former Minister of Education and rector of OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. “The reasons are varied: from the cost of education (especially if undertaken off-site), to a university offering that is poorly aligned with changes in society, to a lack of awareness and orientation towards STEM subjects, which guarantee the highest employment rates. Change necessarily involves strong investments in the university system (and, in general, in the education system) at the level of the country, starting from the awareness that a functioning education system is the main driver of growth and development in the medium to long term. It is a debated and discussed topic on which, however, a clear and ambitious position is never taken.”

Stagnant context and educational offer

In this stagnant context, the educational offer that comes from online universities increasingly meets the needs of flexibility, quality and cost of recently graduated students, university students looking for specialization and workers interested in updating themselves with innovative skills. According to data from the Ministry of University and Research, enrollments in accredited online universities in Italy have grown by over 141 thousand units in ten years (since 2011), equal to 293.9%. Added to these are the academic institutions accredited at European level, such as OPIT, whose educational offering is overall capable of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of students, with affordable costs and extremely innovative and updated degree paths.

Analyzing the figures

An analysis of Eurostat statistics relating to the year 2021 highlights that 27% of Europeans aged between 16 and 74 have attended an entirely digital course. The highest share is recorded in Ireland (46%), Finland and Sweden (45%) and the Netherlands (44%). The lowest in Romania (10%), Bulgaria (12%) and Croatia (18%). Italy is at 20%. “With OPIT” – adds Riccardo Ocleppo, founder and director – “we have created a new model of online academic institution, oriented towards new technologies, with innovative programs, a strong practical focus, and an international approach, with professors and students from 38 countries around the world, and teaching in English. We intend to train Italian students not only on current and updated skills, but to prepare them for an increasingly dynamic and global job market. Our young people must be able to face the challenges of the future like those who study at Stanford or Oxford: with solid skills, but also with relational and attitudinal skills that lead them to create global companies and startups or work in multinationals like their international colleagues. The increasing online teaching offer, if well structured and with quality, represents an incredible form of democratization of education, making it accessible at low costs and with methods that adapt to the flexibility needs of many working students.”

Point of reference

With two degrees already starting in September 2023 – a three-year degree (BSc) in Modern Computer Science and a specialization (MSc) in Applied Data Science & AI – and 4 starting in September 2024: a three-year degree (BSc) in Digital Business, and the specializations (MSc) in Enterprise Cybersecurity, Applied Digital Business and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI), OPIT is an academic institution of reference for those who intend to respond to the demands of a job market increasingly oriented towards the field of artificial intelligence. Added to this are a high-profile international teaching staff and an exclusively online educational offer focused on the technological and digital fields.

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Times of India: The 600,000 IT job shortage in India and how to solve it
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 2, 2024 3 min read

Written on April 25th 2024

Source here: Times of India 


The job market has never been a straightforward path. Ask anyone who has ever looked for a job, certainly within the last decade, and they can tell you as much. But with the rapid development of AI and machine learning, concerns are growing for people about their career options, with a report from Randstad finding that 7 in 10 people in India are concerned about their job being eliminated by AI.

 Employers have their own share of concerns. According to The World Economic Forum, 97 million new AI-related jobs will be created by 2025 and the share of jobs requiring AI skills will increase by 58%. The IT industry in India is experiencing a tremendous surge in demand for skilled professionals on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, cybersecurity and, according to Nasscom, this is leading to a shortage of 600,000 profiles.

 So how do we fill those gaps? Can we democratize access to top-tier higher education in technology?

These are the questions that Riccardo Ocleppo, the engineer who founded a hugely successful ed-tech platform connecting international students with global Universities, Docsity, asked himself for years. Until he took action and launched the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), together with the Former Minister of Education of Italy, Prof. Francesco Profumo, to help people take control of their future careers.

OPIT offers BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science, AI, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Digital Business, attracting students from over 38 countries worldwide. Through innovative learning experiences and affordable tuition fees starting at €4,050 per year, OPIT empowers students to pursue their educational goals without the financial and personal burden of relocating.

The curriculum, delivered through a mix of live and pre-recorded lectures, equips students with the latest technology skills, as well as business and strategic acumen necessary for careers in their chosen fields. Moreover, OPIT’s EU-accredited degrees enable graduates to pursue employment opportunities in Europe, with recognition by WES facilitating transferability to the US and Canada.

OPIT’s commitment to student success extends beyond academics, with a full-fledged career services department led by Mike McCulloch. Remote students benefit from OPIT’s “digital campus,” fostering connections through vibrant discussion forums, online events, and networking opportunities with leading experts and professors.

Faculty at OPIT, hailing from prestigious institutions and industry giants like Amazon and Microsoft, bring a wealth of academic and practical experience to the table. With a hands-on, practical teaching approach, OPIT prepares students for the dynamic challenges of the modern job market.

In conclusion, OPIT stands as a beacon of hope for individuals seeking to future-proof their careers in technology. By democratizing access to high-quality education and fostering a global learning community, OPIT empowers students to seize control of their futures and thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

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