STUG Award

The STUG Award recognized significant contributions to the community that reflect the spirit and character demonstrated by those who came together in the Software Tools User Group (STUG). Past recipients of the annual STUG award conspicuously exhibit a contribution to the reusable code-base available to all and/or the provision of a significant enabling technology to users in a widely available form.

2014: Tom Anderson, Mic Bowman, David Culler, Larry Peterson, and Timothy Roscoe
For PlanetLab. PlanetLab enables multiple distributed services to run over a shared, wide-area infrastructure. The PlanetLab software system introduced distributed virtualization (aka “slicing”), unbundled management (where management services run within their own slices), and chain of responsibility (mediating between slice users and infrastructure owners). The PlanetLab experimental platform consists of 1186 machines at 582 sites that run this software to enable researchers to evaluate ideas in a realistic environment and offer long-running services (e.g., content distribution networks) for real users. The PlanetLab software package has been adopted, and extended, by numerous other projects (e.g., OneLab, CoreLab, G-Lab, VINI, M-Lab, VICCI, and OpenCloud).

2013: Luke Kanies
For Puppet, a widely-deployed open source tool that often serves to introduce the concept of configuration management to sysadmins and DevOps engineers alike, helping to drive the community forward.

2012: Arthur David Olson
Arthur David Olson receives the STUG award for the creation and maintenance of OlsonTZ, also known as the IANA Time Zone database and the zoneinfo database, deployed in nearly every flavor of UNIX and Linux. It is also used in Java, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and other databases. This database has been successfully maintained without oversight by a standards body. Olson has maintained the database, coordinated the mailing list and volunteers, and provided a release platform.

2011: Fabrice Bellard 
GeerToday, we take it for granted that we can run a number of different operating environments on the same local hardware. Virtual environments have become central to handling the many issues we in the systems community deal with every day. That capability was not always readily available. Fabrice did not invent binary translation, cpu emulation, or virtualization, but his project, called QEMU, has become the keystone of many well-known products.

Wikipedia describes QEMU as a "processor emulator that relies on dynamic binary translation to achieve a reasonable speed, while being easy to port on new host CPU architectures." In addition to that emulation, Fabrice has given us device models rich enough to permit completely unmodified operating systems to run on emulated machines, while allowing QEMU to profit from any available hardware and/or operating system support.

Fabrice's wonderful code base was made freely available for everyone to use and build upon. Many have no idea that it is QEMU under the hood, silently providing support for features they love and take for granted. It is truly a foundational technology.

The 2011 USENIX Association STUG award is our small way of thanking Fabrice for giving us all a tool that has become virtually indispensable to our work.

2010: MediaWiki and the Wikimedia Foundation 
Most computer users, particularly our youngest ones, may find it hard to imagine a world without wikis and especially hard to imagine one without Wikipedia. We are proud to present the USENIX STUG Award to MediaWiki and to its parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates some of the largest collaboratively edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia.

But we also know that this wonderful piece of code did not just appear. The ideas behind them were not new, but a few people had to come forward to implement a wiki that could underlie a real scalable, worldwide service. That service was MediaWiki. It took a community to collaborate, putting in many many hours of work to make the idea great and make it lasting. We recognize Magnus Manske, Lee Crocker, Brion Vibber, and Tim Starling as the major contributors to MediaWiki, but we all realize that their work has been refined and improved by many others. MediaWiki is a wonderful example of a software tool that changed our world.

2009: Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler 
Today computer users and programmers take data compression to be expected and normal. Our systems and applications perform compression and decompression without us even being aware that that it has occurred. Today, it is hard for many of us to believe that this was not always true. Some corporations, such as IBM and Unisys, considered data compression so important that they patented certain algorithms useful for the task, and by the mid to late 1980s they began to look at those algorithms as technology that needed to be licensed or to be locked away and made available only to their customers. All of that changed on July 11, 1991, when the first version of a data compression algorithm developed by Jean-loup Gailly was made publicly available. Shortly thereafter he was joined by Mark Adler, who was interested in "zip style" utilities for use on his UNIX-based systems. Mark describes their collaboration as "one thing led to another."

These simple but generous actions by Mark and Jean-loup mean that the industry now uses their code and algorithm—as we noted, more often than not without even knowing they're being used. Jean-loup continues to contend that he spent more time studying data compression patents than he took to write his own implementation. Mark says his contributions are a thank you for all the other software from which he has benefited. Whether for the time it took to discover how to create an open data compression algorithm or for their specific implementations, our community cannot thank Jean-loup and Mark enough for the gift they have given us all. The USENIX Association's 2009 STUG Award is our way of thanking them both.

2008 STUG Award winners
Jean-loup Gailly (left) and Mark Adler (right) after receiving the 2009 STUG Award

2008: Bryan M. Cantrill, Michael W. Shapiro, and Adam H. Leventhal 
At the 2004 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, Bryan Cantrill, Michael Shapiro, and Adam Leventhal presented a paper on DTrace, which they described as "a new facility for dynamic instrumentation of production systems [which] features the ability to dynamically instrument both user-level and kernel-level software in a unified and absolutely safe fashion." The first component of the OpenSolaris project to have its source code released under the Common Development and Distribution License, DTrace was the Gold winner in the Wall Street Journal's 2006 Technology Innovation Awards contest. It is a positive demonstration of DTrace's design and implementation that this low-level performance tool originally written for OpenSolaris has already been ported to other operating systems, including many of the usual and popular ones.

USENIX is pleased to honor the DTrace Three for their powerful software tracing facility. It has greatly broadened our view into OS and application behavior both at the user level and inside the kernel, on live systems, with zero effect on the system except when it's explicitly enabled.

2008 STUG Award winners
Bryan Cantrill (left) and Adam Leventhal (center) receive the
2008 STUG Award from USENIX Board President Clem Cole (right)
at USENIX '08.

2007: Guido van Rossum 
The Python programming language is known for many things. Most important, it pays homage to Monty Python's Flying Circus. It is a dynamic, object-oriented language with simple, yet efficient, high-level data structures. Guido van Rossum, the originator of Python, emphasized readability and ease of use and reuse. Python's elegance has made it an increasingly attractive tool for scripting, rapid application development, and general programming. We believe that developers are attracted to Python because such thought was put into making the syntax obvious and simple; for instance, Python, unlike most other dynamic languages, uses indentation to group statements.

In an article describing his first experiences with Python, Eric S. Raymond wrote, "The long-term usefulness of a language comes not in its ability to support clever hacks, but from how well and how unobtrusively it supports the day-to-day work of programming."* Python is open source, free software. In fulfillment of van Rossum's original goals, the community of Python programmers has spread across multiple operating systems and hardware platforms.

In light of his contributions in the STUG spirit and to the realization of a major enabling technology, USENIX recognizes Guido van Rossum with the 2007 STUG Award.

* This quote found at

2006: Bram Cohen 
The FTP and HTTP protocols and user clients have served our community well as mechanisms for distributing and sharing many different types of files. However, they were designed without considering how network bandwidth was provided or the current interconnected nature of the network. By April 2001, at least one person was convinced that a more decentralized method of file distribution was possible, and he began to create a program codifying his ideas. At the end of that summer he released it. That program, BitTorrent, has grown into one of the most popular file distribution methods on the Internet. Its popularity is particularly notable in the free and open source software communities, which, like the protocol, are themselves decentralized.

USENIX feels that BitTorrent is a software tool that, like the namesake of this award, provides “significant enablement” to users of the Internet and makes files, regardless of content, much more widely available to all. We would like to recognize its author, Bram Cohen, for his contribution to the community.

2005: Miguel de Icaza and Mattias Ettrich 
2005 STUG AwardThe UNIX Command Line User Interface (CLI), while widely recognized as being efficient, has often been attacked by non-UNIX users as not user-friendly. In response, many GUIs have been added to UNIX over the years, but most were generally considered inferior to non-UNIX GUIs.

In October of 1996 and August of 1997, two projects were started to produce desktops that were easy to use, adhered to traditional UNIX philosophies, and gave access to all of the underlying features of the CLI.

While these desktops competed with each other, they also lent strength to each other and have now produced a range of applications that we collectively call KDE and GNOME. These applications have eased implementations of the UNIX operating system in the non-technical marketplace. Most important, by embracing the concepts of free and open source software, these two desktop projects offered freely distributed code, which allowed any distribution or software developer to utilize these graphical features.

The USENIX Association would like to recognize both of these groups for creating a very portable set of libraries, tools, and applications.

2004: M. Douglas McIlroy 
When people think of UNIX, many things come to mind. Certainly there were smaller operating systems, but few that did so much in so little space. There were operating systems better at real time, some that were better at timesharing or some other specific function.

The one thing, however, that most people think about when they think of UNIX is the power of the command line interface and the elegance of the pipe and filter model. While many people have added to this interface, contributing tools and programs over the years, one name stands out as a significant contributor, one who originally wrote some of the most basic and timeless tools for this system.

Doug McIlroy helped develop the concept of pipes and stream processing. In order to demonstrate the concept of stream programming, he wrote the original UNIX version of such tools as sort(1), spell(1), diff(1), join(1), graph(1), speak(1), and tr(1), among others.

He also had a major influence on the design of macros. In addition, he has made contributions to various computer languages such as Lisp, PL/1, and TMG, and he helped influence Snobol, Altran, and C++.

It is for these contributions to the development of small, reusable tools, the very basis of the STUG award, that USENIX is proud to have given the STUG Award for 2004 to M. Douglas McIlroy.

2003: CVS (the Concurrent Versioning System) 
Without CVS, it wouldn't be possible for any number of people to work on the same code without interfering with each other. It can be argued that without remote-collaboration tools such as CVS, most of the larger Free and Open Source software that is available today could not have existed, for while individuals can produce significant software, collaborative methods are often needed for complex and wide-ranging projects. Therefore USENIX awards the 2003 STUG award to the CVS program and its four main authors, Dick Grune, Brian Berliner, Jeff Polk, and Jim Kingdon, authors of modern CVS, arguably the essential enabling technology of distributed development.

  • Dick Grune: The original author of the CVS shell script, written in July 1986, Dick is also credited with many of the CVS conflict resolution algorithms. He developed the script at the Free University of Amsterdam (Vrije Universiteit), where he teaches principles of programming languages and compiler construction. He was involved in constructing Algol 68 compilers in the 1970s and participated in the Amsterdam Compiler Kit in the 1980s. He is co-author of three books: Programming Language Essentials, Modern Compiler Design, and Parsing Techniques: A Practical Guide.
  • Brian Berliner: Coder and designer of the first translation of the CVS scripts to the C language, in April 1989, Brian based his design on the original work done by Dick Grune.
  • Jeff Polk: Jeff rewrote most of the code of CVS 1.2. He made just about everything dynamic (by using malloc), added a generic hashed list manager, rewrote the modules' database parsing in a compatible but extended way, generalized directory hierarchy recursion for virtually all the commands, generalized the loginfo file to be used for pre-commit checks and commit templates, wrote a new and flexible RCS parser, fixed an uncountable number of bugs, and helped in the design of future CVS features.
  • Jim Kingdon: While at Cygnus, in 1993 Jim made the first remote CVS, which ran over TCP or rsh or kerberos'd rsh, and eventually over TCP/IP. The remote-CVS protocol enabled real use of CVS by the open source community; before remote CVS, everyone had to log in to a central server, copy their patches there, etc. Some years later, Jim formed Cyclic, a company which offered CVS support and development.

2002: The Apache Foundation

2001: Kerberos
The 2001 Annual Award recipients are those who contributed to the development of Kerberos, a security system that set the standard for authentication and key management in distributed systems. Kerberos is a security system that set the standard for authentication and key management in distributed systems, is based on the revolutionary Needham and Schroeder protocol of 1978. It is a prime example of how to turn a theoretical result into a useful system. The need for authenticating users and services in a distributed environment is critical, and Kerberos provides a solution that is secure, relatively simple to administer, and scalable. Because of this, Kerberos has been implemented as part of the Distributed Computer Environment (DCE), the Andrew File Systems (AFS), and is also part of Windows 2000. No single security system has had as much impact on the way security is managed in distributed networks as Kerberos. Read theacceptance remarks and special thanks for the 2001 Stug award.

2000: Tatu Ylönen
The 2000 Annual Award goes to Tatu Ylönen for his work developing SSH. The SSH Secure Shell encrypts all traffic, and provides a high level of protection against hacker attacks. SSH provides secure remote logins and remote command execution, key management functions, terminal emulation, fully integrated file transfers, and tunneling of X11 traffic. In addition it has been incorporated into other tools such as rsync for secure remote administration tasks. SSH introduced a simple yet robust protocol at a time when encryption over the Internet was rare, and enjoyed rapid and wide deployemnt.

Tatu Ylönen developed SSH while a graduate student at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland in the early 1990s. He is a founder of SSH Communications Security.

1999: Udi Manber
The 1999 award went to Udi Manber for turning algorithms into tools for searching and resource discovery. Udi Manber is the Chief Scientist at Yahoo!. Before joining Yahoo! in 1998, he was a professor of Computer Science at the University of Arizona. He wrote more than 50 technical articles, 3 of which won best paper awards, co-developed Agrep, Glimpse, Harvest, and the Search Broker, and wrote a popular textbook on design of algorithms.

1998: John Ousterhout
The 1998 award went to John Ousterhout for Tcl/Tk, the software tools for which he is best known. Together or separately, Tcl/Tk are much used, and they exhibit the spirit that STUG was founded to encourage: portability, adaptability to seemingly unfriendly environments, and clarity of concept.

1997: Larry Wall
The 1997 award went to Larry Wall in recognition of his major contributions to software portability and re-use of code, embodied in the public domain 'Config' program and the Perl language.

1996: Michael Tiemann
The first STUG was awarded in 1996 to Michael Tiemann for his work in C++ which led to fundamental contributions to GCC, the GNU C Compiler. The GNU C compiler has had an unparalleled influence upon the availability of efficient and standard code on a vast number of hardware platforms. GCC has provided a development base for thousands of projects.