University of Oregon

Future Challenges in System Software

A Computer and Information Science Colloqium
Who Should Come: 
This event is only open to the UO Community
Monday, March 5, 2012 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
220 Deschutes Hall

For more than a decade, the gap between the abstract machine used to inform programming models and the real computing hardware executing the code was relatively narrow. However, our basic computing platforms are rapidly changing and a new generation of computing hardware is taking shape. Multicore and GPU chips have made parallel and vector programming models common within a node. System architects are also working on ways to integrate fast networking and 3D stacked memory. Parallelism within a node is rapidly increasing and everyone is looking for ways to squeeze out more performance per Watt. These advancements are being included in everything from smartphones to extreme-scale supercomputers. While it may be years before these disruptive and emerging technology paths become clear and architectures converge on fundamental design patterns, for computer scientists, these changes in the underlying computing hardware presents fantastic research opportunities in programming models, power management layers, new operating system concepts, massively parallel runtime execution engines, and performance tools. At the other end of the spectrum, new cloud-based systems are providing malleable compute and storage resources, once again changing our basic model for computing resources. The changing system software will impact a wide range of applications, from drug discovery to tornado modeling. This presentation will focus on the areas of system software, that code that sits between the application and the hardware, that must either evolve or be reinvented to fully leverage these new technologies.

Pete Beckman is a recognized global expert in high-end computing systems. During the past 25 years, his research has been focused on software and architectures for large-scale parallel and distributed computing systems. Pete enjoys the challenging step of moving novel research software into production on extreme-scale systems. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in computer science from Indiana University, he helped found the university's Extreme Computing Laboratory, which focused on parallel languages, portable run-time systems, and collaboration technology. In 1997 Pete joined the Advanced Computing Laboratory at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he founded the ACL's Linux cluster team and launched the Extreme Linux series of workshops and activities that helped catalyze the high-performance Linux computing cluster community.

Pete also has been a leader within industry. In 2000 he founded a Turbolinux-sponsored research laboratory in Santa Fe that developed the world's first dynamic provisioning system for cloud computing and HPC clusters. The following year, Pete became Vice President of Turbolinux's worldwide engineering efforts, managing development offices in the US, Japan, China, Korea, and Slovenia.

Pete joined Argonne National Laboratory in 2002, and worked as Director of Engineering, and later as Chief Architect for the TeraGrid. He led the design and deployment team that created the world's most powerful Grid computing system for linking production HPC computing centers for the National Science Foundation. After the TeraGrid became fully operational, Pete started a research team focusing on petascale high-performance software systems, Linux, fault tolerance, wireless sensors, and the SPRUCE system to provide urgent computing for critical, time-sensitive decision support.

In 2008 he became the Director for the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, and managed the deployment of Intrepid, which at the time debuted as the world's fastest open science supercomputer in production. As Director, he lead the Argonne team working with IBM on the design of Mira, a 10 Petaflop BG/Q to be installed in 2012. He also brought together a group of scientists and engineers and co-founded the International Exascale Software Project (, which has built an international software roadmap for exascale software and co-design.