EECS Ph.D. Student Kyle Hale Receives Best Short Presentation Award at HPDC 2015

Kyle Hale & Dean Hildebrand (2015 HPDC Co-chair)

Kyle Hale, a PhD candidate in EECS and member of the Prescience Lab, received the Best Presentation Award in the Short Paper category at the 24th International ACM Symposium on High-performance Parallel and Distributed Computing (HPDC) in Portland, OR. The award was given for his talk entitled “A Case for Transforming Parallel Runtimes into Operating System Kernels,” which was presented at HPDC on June 17th.

The paper, co-authored by Hale’s advisor, Prof. Peter Dinda, explores the potential benefits of building parallel runtimes (software environments for running programs with a high degree of parallelism) as operating system kernels—instead of on top of OS kernels. While OS researchers in the high-performance computing (HPC) community have for many years been designing lightweight OS kernels that provide some minimal amount of functionality and reliable performance on high-performance machines, Hale and Dinda took a different approach. They questioned whether the distinction between the kernel and the runtime—created by a separate user-mode and kernel mode—makes sense in a performance-critical environment like a supercomputer. They found that by eliminating this distinction, creating what they call Hybrid Runtimes, they could immediately see performance gains and could open up avenues for new uses of hardware typically reserved for only the OS.

The work, partially supported by the Department of Energy's effort to build a software stack for next-generation billion-way parallel computers, involved building an extremely light-weight kernel framework called Nautilus that serves as a starting point for runtime developers interested in the hybrid runtime model. In addition to commodity x86_64 hardware, their kernel framework also runs on Intel’s Xeon Phi massively multicore processor, an effort to which Northwestern undergraduates Conor Hetland and Jon Ford also contributed significantly. Northwestern's is one of only two groups who have built a third-party operating system for the Xeon Phi. You can find out more about this effort at Hale’s blog, 'The Halt Loop', and at

The ACM International Symposium on High-Performance Parallel and Distributed Computing (HPDC) is the premier annual conference for presenting the latest research on the design, implementation, evaluation, and the use of parallel and distributed systems for high-end computing.