Northwestern Hosts 2013 Greater Chicago Area Systems Research Workshop

Computer systems experts gathered to discuss research, future of their field

Nikos HardavellasMore than 150 computer systems experts gathered at Northwestern University on May 3 for the 2nd Greater Chicago Area Systems Research (GCASR) Workshop 2013.

The event brought the computer systems community together to discuss the future of computer systems, disseminate research results and ideas, increase communication, and foster new collaborations and synergies.

“There is a significant presence of computer systems researchers in the greater Chicago area, but unfortunately we have been operating mostly in isolation,” said Nikos Hardavellas, June and Donald Brewer Junior Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and co-chair of the GCASR workshop. “This workshop gives us the opportunity to share our insights, questions, and concerns as our field moves forward.”

Peter DindaAttendees represented 16 universities, industries, and national labs from the Chicago area and beyond, including Argonne National Laboratory, Google-Chicago, Google-Madison, University of Chicago, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. The event more than tripled in size from the first workshop, which was held last year at the University of Chicago.

The program began with a keynote lecture from Pete Beckman, director of the Exascale Technology and Computing Institute at Argonne National Laboratory and co-director of the Northwestern-Argonne Institute for Science and Engineering. Following the keynote were 16 talks and 42 poster presentations covering a wide area of computer systems topics, such as computer architecture, operating systems, networking, distributed systems, cloud computing, supercomputing, and programming languages. 

Fabian BustamanteAttendees had the chance to see cutting-edge research, including novel processor architectures that promise to increase energy efficiency by 100 times; a glimpse of Google's challenges in building their computing infrastructure; advanced techniques for large-scale scientific computing; and other exciting research projects pursued throughout the region.

Several professors of electrical engineering and computer science at McCormick also participated in the event. Professor Peter Dinda described recent work in his group on extending the "Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)" virtualization model of cloud computing to supercomputing, and showcased joint work with his PhD students Lei Xia, Maciej Swiech, and Kyle Hale on techniques for high-speed overlay networking, transactional memory, and blurring the boundary between virtualization and applications. 

Yan ChenAssociate Professor Fabián Bustamante presented Dasu, a measurement experimentation platform for the Internet’s edge, which has been installed by over 90,000 users spreading across 1,802 networks and 147 countries. Associate Professor Yan Chen evaluated state-of-the-art anti-malware products for Android, tested their resilience against various obfuscation techniques, and proposed possible improvements. Yigit Demir, a PhD student in Hardavellas’ group, presented Galaxy, a nanophotonic interconnect architecture that enables the construction of a many-core “virtual chip” that could overcome the scalability constraints of modern semiconductor technology.