Dongarra Honored with Ken Kennedy Award for Contributions to Supercomputing

By Tiffany Trader

October 8, 2013

HPC luminary Jack Dongarra has been selected to receive an ACM-IEEE Computer Society Ken Kennedy Award for “his leadership in designing and promoting standards for mathematical software used to solve numerical problems common to high performance computing (HPC).”

Dongarra is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Tennessee, where he is the founder and director of the Innovative Computing Laboratory. He also holds positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Manchester.

Professor Dongarra is committed to the continued progress of supercomputing. His speciality is implementing linear algebra algorithms for high performance computing architecture. The tools and software packages that Dongarra developed have greatly enhanced the performance and portability of HPC environments and upped the ante for solving complex computational challenges.

A leading researcher in the mathematical software field, Dongarra is perhaps best known as the father of the LINPACK benchmark, the ranking engine for the TOP500 list of world’s fastest supercomputers. In addition to helping establish the TOP500 list in 1993, Dongarra has also contributed to the design and implementation of numerous open source software packages and systems, including EISPACK, the BLAS, LAPACK, ScaLAPACK, Netlib, PVM, MPI, Open-MPI, NetSolve, ATLAS, PAPI, PLASMA, and MAGMA. He has published approximately 200 academic articles and papers and is the coauthor of several books.

ACM President Vint Cerf called attention to Dongarra’s achievements and years of service to the HPC community. “Jack saw the need to keep pace with the evolution in HPC hardware and software in a world that demands higher speeds and performance levels,” said Cerf. “His innovations have contributed immensely to the steep growth of high performance computing and its ability to illuminate a wide range of scientific questions facing our society.”

IEEE Computer Society President David Alan Grier also commented: “I’m so pleased to see this award go to Jack Dongarra because he did such foundational work in scientific computing. That work was important in my early career and it remains an influential body of work.”

Currently Dongarra is working to develop software that can handle the complexities of future exascale system designs as part of a three-year million dollar project. The centerpiece for the effort – the Parallel Runtime Scheduling and Execution Controller, or PaRSEC – is a framework for scheduling and management of tasks on distributed many-core heterogeneous architectures.

The busy professor is also working to develop an alternative to the LINPACK benchmark, currently the most widely used metric for ranking and discussing big iron systems.

A press announcement summarized the impetus for the new effort thusly:

Linpack measures the speed and efficiency of linear equation calculations. Over time, applications requiring more complex computations have become more common. These calculations require high bandwidth and low latency, and access data using irregular patterns. Linpack is unable to measure these more complex calculations.

“This is an important issue to address since we are seeing more applications being dominated by differential equations, and thus, each iteration of the TOP500 will show increasing gaps between real versus Linpack performance,” said Dongarra.

The Kennedy Award, sponsored by ACM and the Computer Society, was established in 2009 in honor of the late Ken Kennedy, founder of Rice University’s computer science program and a renowned expert on high-performance computing. The award recognizes substantial contributions to programmability and productivity in computing as well as significant community service or mentoring contributions, and carries a $5,000 honorarium.

Dongarra will receive the Kennedy Award on November 19, in Denver at SC13.

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