Skarlatos Inspired Research on Computer Architecture and Operating Systems Results in Outstanding Thesis Award | Computing
While a computer science student in Illinois, Dimitrios Skarlatos (PhD CS ’20) developed a line of research that linked computer architecture and operating systems, with a particular interest in performance, security and scalability.
His efforts culminated in the thesis “Rethinking Computer Architecture and Operating System Abstractions for Good and Evil,” which in June was recognized as the 2021 ACM SIGARCH – IEEE-CS TCCA Outstanding thesis award winner.
The thesis provides an overview of current security challenges and highlights several solutions. His technical expertise combined with a great understanding of the current state of the industry, which helped the thesis achieve this recognition at ISCA 2021.
“IT systems are undergoing radical change, driven by tough security requirements and unprecedented growth in data and users. This change turned out to be a break in abstraction, ”Skarlatos said. “Today’s hardware and operating system abstractions were created in an era when we had minimal security threats, limited compute and memory resources, and a limited number of users. These assumptions are not representative of the current IT landscape.
“In this new era of computing, there is an urgent need to rethink the synergy between OS and hardware layers from scratch.
Attacks such as Meltdown and Specter have highlighted the fact that these issues were not properly identified and addressed. In response, Skarlatos’ work focused on two central themes and presented several different solutions.
First, he identified Jaimais Vu as a defense against “microarchitectural replay attacks”. In addition, the thesis described Draco’s operating system and hardware mechanisms for “low overload protections of the system call interface by caching system calls and validated arguments”.
Second, the thesis proposes Elastic Cuckoo Page tables as a “radical overhaul of virtual memory translation that allows high translation parallelism”.
The Outstanding Thesis Award was the perfect recognition of Skarlatos’ long-standing efforts in researching and learning with the advisor, Illinois Computer Science Professor Josep Torrellas.
“Dimitrios’ thesis is one of the best I have ever seen; it’s both broad and deep, with revolutionary new ideas and a wealth of data, ”Torrellas said. “I find the part about Elastic Cuckoo Page Tables the most important. This represents a better pioneering alternative to advanced processor virtual address translation schemes. It could revolutionize current designs.
Likewise, the pupil credited Torrellas as a great advisor. Skarlatos said that as a teacher, Torrellas exhibits a unique combination of research freedom and expertise. This properly guides its students to the right inquiries.
In addition, Skarlatos felt that Christopher Fletcher and Tianyin Xu, computer science professors from Illinois, who both served on his doctoral committee, helped him bridge “IT architecture with security. and operating systems, leading to a single research perspective that crosses multiple layers ”.
These people he worked closely with helped him persevere even as the research process created its own challenges, as it does for anyone who experiences it.
“The search is exciting because it is always moving through hills and valleys pushing you forward,” Skarlatos said. “I am intrigued by the interactions between software and hardware, especially since some design decisions implemented over two decades ago are still present in systems today. My doctorate would not have been the same without the influence of many professors and students here at UIUC, but also thanks to the experiences I have gained during internships in industry.
Going forward, Skarlatos will begin as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in the fall of 2021.
Thinking back on his time with Skarlatos, Torrellas said he understands why his former student is ready for the next phase of his college journey.
“Dimitrios was always in a good mood, accepting rejections and bad news with the greatest ease. It would also give ideas to more junior students continuously. Working with him has been a great joy, ”said Torrellas.