The prestigious MICRO Test of Time (ToT) Award is an annual feature at the IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture. This year was the 51st edition of the conference, held between October 20 and 24 in Fukuoka City, Japan. In the course of the conference, the Awards Committee named Thomas Ball and James R. Larus as the winners of the fifth MICRO Test of Time Award. That is an honor for EPFL as well; Professor Larus is Dean of the School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC).

The MICRO Test of Time award recognizes the most influential papers published in prior sessions of the international symposium. Each award-winning paper has had a significant impact on research in the concerned field. Ball and Larus won the distinction for their paper titled Efficient Path Profiling, which was published in MICRO 29 (1996). Their research was chosen from amongst more than 150 eligible papers that were nominated or shortlisted based on recommendations by members of the computer architecture community. All of them were published between 1996 and 2000.

The paper addressed the problem of basic block and edge profiles, which often predict frequencies of overlapping paths inaccurately. Such disparities are often ignored on the assumption that accurate profiling must be far more expensive than basic block or edge profiling. Ball and Larus dispelled this erroneous conclusion and presented a novel and efficient technique for path profiling. The algorithm developed by them opened new avenues for program optimization, performance tuning, and software test coverage. Consequently, it has found wide acceptance among various profile-driven compiler frameworks, as noted by Thomas Ball. Thus, the paper satisfied the ToT criterion of having an influence 18-22 years after its initial publication.

Expressing his happiness on receiving the award, Professor Larus fondly referred to the publication as his “favorite paper” in which “all of the pieces fell together and the end result is very satisfying.”

Before his position at EPFL, Professor Larus was a researcher, manager, and director in Microsoft Research for over 16 years and an assistant and associate professor in the Computer Sciences Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has published more than 100 papers (including 9 best and most influential paper awards), received 30 US patents, and served on numerous program committees and panels.