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CS News Fall 2011

CS News:
Professor Kevin Skadron - Too Darn Hot!

Professor Kevin Skadron

As computer chips become more compact and more powerful, the intensity of the heat they generate increases dramatically. Unless managed appropriately, this heat can degrade performance and cause processor failure. For his work helping chip designers anticipate heat buildup during normal operations, Professor Kevin Skadron won the 2011 Maurice Wilkes Award at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture. He was cited “for outstanding contributions to thermal-aware computer architecture modeling and design.”

In the past, researchers focused on better cooling mechanisms to dissipate on-board heat. Skadron took a different approach. Teaming up with Mircea Stan, a professor in the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Skadron created HotSpot, a tool that enables chip designers to minimize heat buildup in the first place. Designers can download HotSpot and connect it to a chip simulator, and it will calculate the temperature at all locations on the chip when specific tasks are being performed. Because HotSpot can be used early in the design process, designers can employ a variety of strategies to optimize thermal management.

HotSpot has proved to be extremely popular. Since it was introduced in 2003, it has been downloaded more than 2,900 times.