Visible to the public Tech Transfer of Software Tools

Presented as part of the 2012 HCSS conference.


"Invent a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door? Not!"

Great ideas and even great research does not sell itself. Someone has to convince an organization to turn an idea into a workable application and then convince many people to use it. In a university or research lab, this process is called tech transfer and is rarely done well.

From its founding, Microsoft Research placed equal weight on developing new ideas and seeing them put to use. We have not always been successful, but our research innovations are in all of Microsoft's products. In this talk, I will share my experience building software development tools for Microsoft's use and my observation on how tech transfer can succeed.


James Larus is a Principal Researcher in Microsoft Research. Larus has been an active contributor to the programming languages, compiler, software engineering, and computer architecture communities. He published many papers, received 26 US patents, and served on numerous program committees and NSF and NRC panels. His book, Transactional Memory (Morgan Claypool) appeared in 2007. Larus became an ACM Fellow in 2006.

Larus joined Microsoft Research as a Senior Researcher in 1998 to start and lead the Software Productivity Tools (SPT) group, which developed and applied a variety of innovative program analysis techniques to construct new tools to find software defects. This group's research had considerable impact on the research community (2011 SIGPLAN Most Influential Paper and the 2011 CAV Award), as well as being shipped in Microsoft products such as the Static Driver Verifier, FX/Cop, and other widely-used internal software development tools. Larus became an MSR Research Area Manager for programming languages and tools and started the Singularity research project, which demonstrated how modern programming languages and software engineering techniques can fundamentally improve software architectures. Subsequently, he helped start XCG, an effort in MSR to develop hardware and software support for cloud computing. In XCG, Larus led groups developing the Orleans framework for cloud programming and computer hardware projects.

Before joining Microsoft, Larus was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he published approximately 60 research papers and co-led the Wisconsin Wind Tunnel (WWT) research project with Professors Mark Hill and David Wood. WWT was a DARPA and NSF-funded project investigated new approaches to simulating, building, and programming parallel shared-memory computers. Larus's research spanned a number of areas: including new and efficient techniques for measuring and recording executing programs' behavior, tools for analyzing and manipulating compiled and linked programs, programming languages for parallel computing, tools for verifying program correctness, and techniques for compiler analysis and optimization.

Larus received his MS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, and an AB in Applied Mathematics from Harvard in 1980. At Berkeley, Larus developed one of the first systems to analyze Lisp programs and determine how to best execute them on a parallel computer.

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