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eXtreme Computing Group: 2012 in Review

December 31, 2012 | By Microsoft blog editor

Posted by Surajit Chaudhuri, managing director of the eXtreme Computing Group

Microsoft Research 2012 in Review logo 

2012 has been a year of significant developments for the eXtreme Computing Group (XCG), from changes in its organizational structure to project milestones we reached.

One year ago, XCG had several teams with specific technical focus and expertise, in addition to a large but separate engineering group. The intent of such an organizational structure was to have the engineering team not only incubate some of its own project ideas but also to step in and contribute to projects in other parts of XCG. Despite good intentions, such an organizational structure did not serve XCG well. I discovered that it encouraged fragmentation and conflict of interest instead of promoting collaboration. Therefore, we made a few organizational changes. Today, our engineering resources—researchers, developers, program managers—are organized exclusively by their technical expertise, and we no longer have a separate engineering team. XCG has responded well to this change, accomplished early in the year, and we are a more cohesive team than ever before.

Surajit ChaudhuriOur new leadership team went on a short offsite during the summer, and I was really pleased to watch the team spirit. For example, we learned some very surprising facts about each other during that offsite, but they would have to kill me if I shared these with you here.

We have also made great strides in project management. This is more critical for XCG than for other Microsoft Research labs because we are 100 percent project-driven with the motto to “just build it.” Therefore, we need to be agile and “fail fast” when insights don’t pan out.

From the perspective of technical achievements, 2012 has been a banner year. We have had great successes in all four of the technical areas XCG invests in: data platform and analytics, security, cloud systems, and hardware-software co-design. Let me give you one example from each of these areas:

  • The data-platform team is working very closely with Microsoft’s SQL Azure team on supporting performance isolation for multitenant cloud data systems.
  • The Windows 8 release was a landmark event for our cryptography and systems-security teams, with many of their innovations going into that release, especially Trusted Platform Module 2.0.
  • The cloud-systems team celebrated a year of successful deployment of its distributed cloud technology—Orleans—in production for Microsoft’s Halo team, and the team has scaled its system very significantly since then.
  • Last but not least, we have been green-lighted for pilot deployment of some of XCG’s exciting progress in hardware-software co-design.

As I look forward, I am so excited at the pipeline of our projects that have the potential to significantly impact the world of big data, cloud systems, and data-center infrastructure.

Let me close with another remarkable milestone XCG celebrated in 2012. Microsoft has a yearly employee charitable-contribution campaign, the Microsoft Giving Campaign. Over the years, this program has raised more than $1 billion. This year, XCG’s employee participation rate exceeded 90 percent. Isn’t that amazing? I am so lucky to be part of not only a very talented organization, but also such a generous organization.

Happy holidays to all of you.