December 02, 2005
Cray Inc. has announced that co-founder and Chief Scientist Burton Smith will leave the company to assume a new role at Microsoft Corporation. Smith, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is recognized as one of the leading authorities in high performance computing. He will depart Cray on December 7th, less than four months after the company's other co-founder, James Rottsolk, retired. Smith has also resigned his role as a director of the company.
For the past decade and a half, Burton Smith has been widely recognized for his contributions to the HPC community. In 1990, he was honored with the Eckert-Mauchly Award given jointly by the IEEE and the Association for Computing Machinery, and was elected a fellow of both organizations in 1994. In 2003, the IEEE Seymour Cray Award was presented to Smith, to recognize his innovative work in high performance computing. In February 2003 he was also elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
In 1987, with James Rottsolk, Smith founded Tera Computer. Thirteen years later, Cray Incorporated was formed when Tera acquired Cray Research from Silicon Graphic Inc.
"As our Chief Scientist and an important leader of our research and development team, Burton has provided innovation and technical leadership to Cray for many years," said Cray president and CEO Peter Ungaro. "We are very proud of the enormous contributions Burton has made to the high performance computing marketplace, and look forward to seeing his ideas leveraged in the broader computing industry."
Smith was the principal architect of the MTA (multi-threaded architecture) system, a design in which concurrent program threads are used to tolerate memory latency. Unlike clustered SMP architectures, the MTA system could automatically extract parallelism from existing software, radically simplifying application retargeting. Although the original MTA system garnered critical acclaim, it was not a commercial success.
More recently Smith headed Cray's Cascade project, which is part of a DARPA-funded initiative aimed at developing a new generation of computer systems capable of sustained performance in excess of one petaflop. The Cascade project is now expected to be led by Cray CTO, Steve Scott.
Cray has stated that its design direction is toward a heterogeneous computing architecture, which will combine features of vector processing, multi-threaded processing, off-the-shelf microprocessing and FPGA processing. Smith, himself, was an advocate for this approach while at Cray.
Burton Smith's new role at Microsoft is not yet known, but it will certainly be different from the work he has done as Cray's Chief Scientist.
"I have truly enjoyed my long association with Cray and the opportunity to spend many years at the forefront of high performance computing," said Smith. "Although I am excited to pursue a new and very different opportunity at Microsoft, I will miss being part of this talented team and I wish Cray continued success."
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