R&D 100 Honors UT Software Program

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee software program that reveals the inner workings of computer chips has been named one of the world’s top new technological developments.

R&D Magazine has named the software package called Performance Application Programmer Interface to its latest R&D 100 list of innovative projects.

The program known as the Innovative Computing Laboratory in UT’s computer science department developed PAPI.

“PAPI provides a window that allows users to see the inner workings of any commonly available processor as it executes any given piece of application software,” Dr. Jack Dongarra, University Distinguished Professor and director of the laboratory, said.

The magazine’s awards recognize the most significant technological innovations of the previous year. Past winners have included the halogen lamp, fax machines, antilock brakes and liquid crystal displays.

Dongarra said PAPI gives programmers access to the data created by hardware-performance counters built into most modern microprocessors. The program, which has been available since 2000, is free to users, he said.

“No obstacle to progress in the world of computing has proved more frustrating than the sluggish pace of improvement in software performance,” Dongarra said. “While processor power has been doubling about every 18 months over several decades, software performance hasn’t kept pace.

“Programmers haven’t been able to get the kind of detailed and precise information they need to understand exactly how their software is executed on different hardware platforms. PAPI changes that.”

The recognition is Dongarra’s fourth R&D 100 award. With Dongarra, UT researchers Kevin London, Shirley Moore, Phillip Mucci, Keith Seymour and Dan Terpstra were part of the team that developed PAPI.

Supporters of the development include IBM Research, Intel Corp., Microsoft Research, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.