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Communications of the ACM


2010 Seymour Cray and Sidney Fernbach Awards

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Microsoft Research Director Daniel Reed

This year, I again had the honor and privilege to chair the selection committee for the IEEE Seymour Cray and Sidney Fernbach awards, both of which were presented at SC10 in New Orleans. These eponymously named awards recognize truly outstanding contributions to high-performance computing, in honor of two early leaders of our field. The Seymour Cray award recognizes individuals whose innovative contributions to high-performance computing systems best exemplify the creative spirit demonstrated by Seymour Cray. In turn, the Sidney Fernbach award is given to for outstanding contributions in the application of high-performance computers using innovative approaches.

It was my pleasure to present the 2010 Seymour Cray award to  Alan Gara, who is an IBM Fellow at the T. J. Watson Research Center. Long before the popular realization that power consumption and reliability would be dominant design considerations at large scale, Al reconceptualized the HPC cluster as a densely packaged system with novel cooling, low power, custom system on a chip (SoCs) and networks and high reliability. The result was the IBM BlueGene system, where Al served as technical project leader and chief system architect. Al’s insights and approach in designing the BlueGene system embody the spirit of Seymour Cray’s groundbreaking supercomputer designs, which were marvels of integrated, elegant, and systemic design.

I was equally pleased to present the 2010 Sidney Fernbach award  to James Demmel,  holder of the Dr. Richard Carl Dehmel Distinguished Professorship at the University of California at Berkeley.  Jim has long been one of the thought leaders and innovators in the world of parallel numerical software and linear algebra, where his deep theoretical and practical contributions to LAPACK and ScaLAPACK are legion. It is no exaggeration to say that everyone in technical computing is a beneficiary of Jim’s work, for his sparse and dense linear system solvers are the foundation technology for a wide array of science and engineering applications. Jim’s insights and contributions embody the interplay among mathematics, algorithms, architecture, and applications that embody the ideas of Sid Fernbach.

The two awards and the work of the recipients reflect the evolving interplay of technology, software, and algorithms in advancing high-performance computing. It is this interplay that has continued to enable innovative scientific research and engineering practice, the vanguard of computational science and engineering.

Congratulations to Al and Jim!


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