UIUC faculty sweep 2021 MICRO Test of Time Awards


Kim Gudeman, CSL

The University of Illinois swept the MICRO 2021 Test of Time Awards this year, with UIUC faculty authoring both of two papers that were recognized this year. CSL’s Nam Sung Kim and Rakesh Kumar received the award, presented by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), which “recognizes the most influential papers published in prior sessions of the International Symposium on Microarchitecture, each of whom have had significant impact in the field,” according to the SIGMICRO website. Each year, the award is given to 1-3 influential MICRO papers whose influence is still felt 18-22 years after its initial publication. 

Nam Sung Kim
Nam Sung Kim

Kim was recognized for his seminal paper, "Razor: A Low-Power Pipeline Based on Circuit-Level Timing Speculation,” which introduced the idea of adopting fine-grain error detection and correction flip-flops within the processor pipeline.  The Razor methodology could then detect process, supply, or temperature variations dynamically and correct those errors using “shadow latches.” Shadow latches are a type of circuit, sometimes found in high-speed digital signal processing applications, that help synchronize electronic components.

As a result, “Academic research was broadly furthered across the world, spurred by the dramatic energy efficiency made possible by Razor. Industry (ARM, Intel) launched detailed research and development efforts into dynamic error detection/correction for resilient systems and also published numerous follow-up product papers based on Razor. This foundational work is exemplary of the high-impact possible from architecture and circuit cross-cutting research," according to the selection committee.

“This award is the second recognition of my circuit and architecture interdisciplinary research from the community, followed by the ISCA influential paper award that I received in 2017,” said Kim, the W.J. ‘Jerry’ Sanders III – Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This is an excellent example of the importance and impact of interdisciplinary research where even simple techniques can be very effective at low cost when they are synergistically integrated based on deep insight. As they are simple and intuitive, researchers can easily understand them and do numerous follow-up studies for further improvement.”

Rakesh Kumar
Rakesh Kumar

Kumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, was recognized for his foundational paper, "Single-ISA Heterogeneous Multi-Core Architectures: The Potential for Processor Power Reduction." This was the first paper to propose heterogeneous single-ISA multi-cores. Contrary to homogeneous multi-cores, which were state-of-art at the time, the paper showed that putting cores with different power-performance characteristics on the same die with intelligent application mapping produces large improvements in energy efficiency.

Noted the selection committee: “This simple, but powerful idea has had a tremendous impact on commercial computer systems (ARM's BigLittle, Apple silicon, Intel Lakefield/AlderLake, etc). This foundational work has inspired numerous academic and industrial projects on heterogeneous systems."

“This is our third test-of-time award in last two years. However, I am particularly proud of this paper since the ideas in the paper can now be found in almost all mobile phones shipped in the world today. The ideas are now also making their way into tablets, laptops, and desktop computer systems. It is extremely gratifying to see real world impact of your research,” Kumar said.

Both professors received their awards at a virtual ceremony in late October. More information the award can be found here: https://www.microarch.org/tot/.