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2012 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Greg Chesson
Greg Chesson

Greg Chesson (MS '75, PhD '77) spent much of his career as chief scientist with Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), the maker of powerful computer workstations and servers whose realistic 3D graphics technology was popular among movie, game console, and early Web companies during the 1980s and early 1990s. Chesson has sometimes been called the godfather of networking due to his many contributions to the area.

As a student at Illinois, Chesson helped bring the UNIX operating system to campus by convincing Professor Donald Gillies to purchase a license.  After graduation, he joined Bell Labs, where he contributed to the 6th and 7th releases of UNIX, and designed and implemented the first suite of protocols on Datakit, a predecessor to today’s ATM networks. 

In 1982, Chesson joined SGI as one of its first technical staff members.  His research work concentrated on the implementation and usage of distributed shared memory and distributed virtual memory in a variety of system configurations, as well as very high-performance (GB/s) local area networks and network adaptor technology.  Among his contributions, Chesson invented the Xpress Transfer Protocol (XTP), a flexible transport protocol designed for high-speed networks.  XTP was simple enough to implement in VLSI hardware, allowing packets to be processed in real-time with very low latency.  He also developed the gigabit system network (GSN), also known as HIPPI-6400, which set a new standard for high-performance network data transfer in 1998 by achieving full duplex transmission capacity of 1600 Mbits/second (200 MB/s). Today, Chesson works on measurement and analysis of large-scale congestion and packet burst phenomena. In between SGI and Google, he worked at wireless LAN startup Atheros Communications Inc., where he contributed to system and chip architecture, wireless chip designs, and QoS and security protocol design and development.

In addition to his technical achievements, Chesson is an accomplished musician—primarily drums and piano. In the 1960s, he joined the U.S. Air Force and performed with one of its bands; several years later returned to civilian life and toured the country with several different jazz and R&B groups, including Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders, and the Woody Herman jazz orchestra.