Inaugural ACM Chuck Thacker Breakthrough Award
Written by Sue Gee   
Thursday, 11 April 2019

The ACM has announced that Mendel Rosenblum, co-founder of VMware and a professor of Computer Science at Stanford is to be the first recipient of the newly established Chuck Thacker Breakthrough in Computing Award.

The award, as we reported when it was announced in August 2018 is for surprising, disruptive or leapfrog contributions in computing ideas or technologies. Named to honor “Chuck” Thacker the award is intended to recognize individuals with the same out-of-the-box thinking and “can-do” approach to solving the unsolved that Thacker exhibited.  It carries a prize of $100,000, financially supported by Microsoft. Recipients of the award, intended to be biennial, are expected to give the ACM Breakthrough Lecture at a major ACM conference.

According to the ACM citation for the ACM Chuck Thacker Breakthrough Award 2018, Mendel Rosenblum is recognized for:

reinventing the virtual machine for the modern era and thereby revolutionizing datacenters and enabling modern cloud computing. 



ACM President,Cherri M Pancake, is quoted as saying: 

“The new paradigm of cloud computing, in which computing services are delivered over the internet, has been one of the most important developments in the computing industry over the past 20 years. Cloud computing has vastly improved the efficiency of systems, reduced costs, and been essential to the operations of businesses at all levels. However, cloud computing, as we know it today, would not be possible without Rosenblum’s reinvention of virtual machines. His leadership, both through his early research at Stanford and his founding of VMware, has been indispensable to the rise of datacenters and the preeminence of the cloud.”

To provide more detail of Rosemblum's achievements, in the late 1990's he and his students at Stanford University revisited the idea of virtual machines to develop system software for FLASH, an experimental large-scale multiprocessor. Recognizing that existing operating systems could not support large numbers of processors, they decided to use virtual machines to run multiple operating system instances on FLASH, each with only a few virtual processors.

The success of this work prompted Rosenblum to found the company VMware in 1998 with Diane Greene, Edouard Bugnion, Scott Devine, and Ellen Wang. VMware popularized the use of virtual machines as a means of allowing any disparate software environments to share processor resources within a datacenter. As the ACM points out, today, every commercial cloud environment, including major providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, is based on virtualization concepts developed by Rosenblum and his colleagues.

Rosenblum's previous awards are ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award (1992), the ACM SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award (2002) and the ACM Software System Award (2009) for for VMware Workstation 1.0 which brought virtualization technology to the Linux desktop. He became an ACM Fellow in 2008 for contributions to reinventing virtual machines.

As with our report of the original announcement of the new award, the last word goes to Eric Horvitz,, Technical Fellow and Director of Microsoft Research: 

“We’re excited to see the contributions of Mendel Rosenblum recognized with the inaugural ACM Charles P. Thacker Breakthrough Award. The award was envisioned to honor the intellect and vision of Chuck Thacker, who was known for upending conventional thinking and introducing breakthrough innovations that changed the trajectory of computing. Mendel Rosenblum is a fabulous choice to receive the inaugural Thacker Award. Rosenblum sought to address a daunting new challenge by reimagining virtualization, an approach that many had bypassed. Virtual machines are essential to the way cloud computing functions, and it is hard to overstate the importance of cloud computing for the computing field as well as for industry more generally.”


More Information

Inaugural ACM Chuck Thacker Breakthrough Award Recognizes Fundamental Contributions that Enabled Cloud Computing

ACM Awards

Mendel Rosenblum's ACM page

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 April 2019 )