Mary Vernon honored for fundamental contributions to analytic system design with the 2019 ACM SIGMETRICS Achievement Award

Mary Vernon speakingMadison, WI, July 1, 2019 – ACM SIGMETRICS announced the selection of Prof. Mary Vernon of University of Wisconsin–Madison as the recipient of the 2019 ACM SIGMETRICS Achievement Award in recognition of her fundamental contributions to analytic performance modeling techniques and to analytic design of a wide range of impactful computer and communication system architectures.

Prof. Vernon is known for her sustained fundamental contributions to analytic system performance modeling techniques, and the use of those techniques in the design of hardware, software and communication system architectures that have near-optimal performance and known performance properties. Her new modeling techniques include: (1) customized queueing-theoretic and other analytic modeling techniques that reflect the mechanics of the system and accurately predict measured system performance for various system design options; (2) analytic bounds that quantify the opportunity for improvement as well as the target system performance; and (3) customized analytic models that directly derive an optimal system design. She has applied these techniques to address a much broader range of vital, commercially-relevant system design questions than were previously known to be amenable to analytic/queueing-theoretic modeling, accurately capturing the performance impacts of more complex and detailed system behavior than known to be possible with such abstract models.

Moreover, because the simplest analytic model that predicts measured system performance readily yields insight into all performance bottlenecks in a system design, her models have yielded powerful design insights, including new, and in many cases near-optimal, designs that significantly outperform previous solutions, for the following: cache coherence algorithms, bus arbitration protocols, high-performance multi-core/memory interconnection architectures, high-performance shared memory architectures for processors with aggressive instruction-level parallelism, system synchronization primitives, operating system semaphore architectures for high-performance workloads, high-performance production parallel system job scheduling, state-of-the-art applications – such as sparse matrix computations, particle transport codes, large-scale stochastic optimization and real-time ray tracing – running on large-scale parallel architectures and computational grids, scalable video streaming protocols, distribution networks for popular streaming content, high-performance Internet transport protocols, differentiated service Internet link scheduling policies, high-performance enterprise storage systems, and flexible manufacturing systems.

A key lesson from these studies is that analytic models that predict measured system performance typically require 1/10th – 1/100th, or less, of the development time for detailed state-of-the-art system simulators, and frequently uncover significant, previously unknown errors in a complex system (or simulator) implementation. Hence such models are also highly valuable for validating system (and simulator) implementations.

Along with her body of work on analytic modeling and quantitative system design, Vernon has pioneered the development of new, more insightful and higher-fidelity characterizations of production high-performance parallel system workloads, streaming media server workloads, and network traffic, as well as the development of key new insights into Internet security.

Dr. Vernon’s contributions are documented in two US patents for bus arbitration protocols, four US patents for scalable streaming protocols and content delivery architectures, and over 90 technical papers, including seven award papers – most recently in Sigcomm 2001, Infocom 2004, and the 2005 USENIX Security Symposium. Her analytic techniques and design results have been reprinted in selective compilations for system architects, adopted in commercial systems and standards, and used by academic colleagues as well as by many leading companies in the U.S. and overseas. Her work has also been recognized by the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, the NSF Faculty Award for Women in Science and Engineering, the ACM Fellow award, and a UW-Madison Vilas Associate award, and the UW-Madison Kellett Award, as well as by invited Keynote talks at conferences in the US, Germany and Spain, Distinguished Lectures at universities throughout the US and Canada, and numerous further invited talks throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Brazil and Japan. She has served on the editorial boards of the IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems and the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, on the 1993 NSF Blue Ribbon Panel for High Performance Computing, the NSF CISE Advisory Board, the CRA Board of Directors, the Executive Committee of the National Computational Science Alliance (NCSA), the NRC CSTB Committee on the Internet Under Crisis Conditions: Learning from the Impact of 9/11, external review committees for various engineering colleges and computer science departments, as Chair of the ACM SIGMETRICS, and as Chair of the UW-Madison Computer Sciences Department. Additional information is available on her website:

Karen Barrett-Wilt, UW-Madison