LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 4 October, 2010 – Alan Gara, chief system architect for the three generations of Blue Gene supercomputers, has been awarded the IEEE Computer Society’s 2010 Seymour Cray Computer Engineering Award.
An IBM Fellow at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, NY, since 2006, Gara now leads IBM’s exascale system research. He is being honored for his "innovations in low power, densely packaged supercomputing systems," and is set to receive the award on 17 November at SC10 in New Orleans.
Affiliated with the T.J. Watson Research Center since 1999, Gara holds a PhD in theoretical physics from University of Wisconsin, Madison. He received Gordon Bell awards in 1998 and 2006 for his scientific work in supercomputing. In addition, the Blue Gene supercomputer received a national medal of technology and innovation in 2009.
Gara served as technical project leader and chief system architect for the BlueGene systems design, which represented a radical reconceptualization of distributed memory parallel systems. Rather than integrating and exploiting existing components, Blue Gene was a complete design based on a desire for dense packaging, low power operation, efficient cooling, and a high mean time to failure (MTBF) to facilitate large hardware configurations.
Combining torus and tree networks for communication, and a custom system on a chip (SoC) node design, the BlueGene series set new standards for ultra-high performance, occupying the top position on the Top500 list of supercomputers for several years.
Gara not only conceived the low power BlueGene design, but was the driving force behind its realization. He identified power consumption and reliability as two of the primary constraints on the continued scaling of supercomputing architecture, something now widely recognized in international plans for exascale computing. He then created a design based on low-power SoC nodes, with dense packaging and multiple interconnection networks that scaled beyond anything previously envisioned.
The integrated design embodies the spirit of Seymour Cray’s novel designs, which were marvels of integrated engineering. The Seymour Cray Award is one of the IEEE Computer Society's highest awards, and is presented in recognition of innovative contributions to high-performance computing systems that best exemplify Cray’s creative spirit. The award consists of a crystal memento, certificate, and a $10,000 honorarium.
Kenichi Miura, a professor at the National Institute of Informatics in Japan, received the 2009 Cray award. Other previous recipients include Ken Batcher, John Cocke, Glen Culler, William J. Dally, Monty Denneau, John L. Hennessy, Steven L. Scott, Burton J. Smith, Steven Wallach, and Tadashi Watanabe.