Logo: University of Southern California

CS Faculty Member Wins Highly Prestigious ACM Honor

Distinction recognizes work on pioneer scalable system able to grow larger seamlessly without sacrificing performance
Eric Mankin
March 25, 2009 —

Shahram Ghandeharizadeh is a recipient of the Association for Computing Machinery's 2008 Software Systems Award.

Shahram Ghandeharizadeh has worked with parallel database systems for more than 15 years. [photo: Diane Ainsworth]
An associate professor in the Viterbi School's Department of Computer Science, Ghandeharizadeh received the honor for his work on the Gamma Parallel Database System, the first system of its kind to be able run the same query with the same performance on larger data sets by simply adding hardware nodes. 

"The Gamma project had a profound impact on the database field by demonstrating that scalable performance could be achieved without the use of specialized hardware," notes the ACM commendation. Previous winners of the award include the creators of such household name systems as Unix (1983), TCP/IP (1991), World Wide Web (1991) and Java (2002).

CS Department Chair Ellis Horowitz hailed the significance of the work. "The Gamma system was a landmark piece of software that showed how relational database systems could take advantage of multiple computer processors to speed up significantly the processing of queries," he said. "I am very happy to see that ACM has given it this award, and especially pleased that one of our own faculty members, Shahram Ghandeharizadeh, was a member of the development team."

Ghandeharizadeh came to the computer science department in 1990 immediately after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Two years later, he received a NSF Young Investigators Award for work in the area of parallel database systems. He is now director of the Viterbi School's Database Laboratory.

Ghandeharizadeh has recently been working with the MySpace portal on ways to increase the scalability of its gigantic computer system.

And there, he says, he's using Gamma applications: "For example, the concept of partitioning data across multiple computers by assigning a range of user-ids to different computers was the focus of my publications in the context of the Gamma system. This concept is used to partition data across many databases at MySpace."

The ACM Software System Award "is given to an institution or individuals recognized for developing software systems that have had a lasting influence, reflected in contributions to concepts and/or commercial acceptance," according to the organization.

Ghandeharizadeh's collaborators on and co-prizewinners for the Gamma system include David J. DeWitt, Microsoft/University of Wisconsin-Madison (Emeritus); Robert Gerber of Microsoft; Murali Krishna of Hewlett Packard; Donovan A. Schneider of Yahoo!; Goetz Graefe of Hewlett Packard; Michael Heytens of RGM Advisors; Hui-I Hsiao of IBM; Jeffrey F. Naughton of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Anoop Sharma of Hewlett Packard. 

The group will be formally recognized at the ACM Awards Banquet June 27, in San Diego. They have decided to donate the $35,000 cash prize to the endowment of the chair recently established at the University of California Berkeley in the name of Jim Gray, the eminent computer scientist lost at sea in January 2007. "Jim was a pioneer in the area of database management systems at the time when we were working on Gamma, having won the same award for System R in 1988," Ghandeharizadeh said.

Again according to the ACM announcement, the organization's awards "reflect outstanding achievements that have led to advances in constructing intelligent machines, more efficient database management, interdisciplinary applications of computer science, more reliable software, and field-defining textbooks.  The 2008 ACM award winners are innovators from internationally known research and academic institutions. These awards honor practiced innovators as well as promising newcomers in the computing arena."