University of Texas at Austin


BLIS Retreat Unites Software Developers, Contributors and Users

By Aira Balasubramanian

Published Sept. 12, 2023

BLIS retreat attendees. Credit: Joanne Foote

Researchers working in academia, industry, and in national laboratories gathered online and in-person for the BLIS Retreat's 10th anniversary on August 28 and 29, held at the Gates-Dell Complex and the Peter O'Donnell Building at The University of Texas at Austin

Speakers shared ideas, updates, and developments to the BLAS-Like Library Instantiation Software (BLIS). As described by Robert van de Geijn, an Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences Core Faculty Member, BLIS faculty lead, and co-organizer of the annual conference, “BLIS is a software library that provides fundamental mathematics (linear algebra) functionality for science applications.” The software aims to make mathematical tools used in research more accessible, portable, and flexible, while maintaining optimal performance standards, and has been adopted by companies such as AMD and Oracle.

BLIS is a software library that provides fundamental mathematics (linear algebra) functionality for science applications.

— Robert van de Geijn

BLIS was initially developed at UT and has become a collaborative project with Southern Methodist University (SMU) as well as other collaborators around the world.  It was driven by Field Van Zee of the Oden Institute’s Science of High-Performance Computing Group as its chief software architect, with many recent innovations led by SMU Assistant Professor and former Oden Institute postdoctoral researcher Devin Matthews. For their contributions they recently received the J.H. Wilkinson Prize for Numerical Software.  BLIS’ development has been primarily funded by NSF CSSI and SI2 grants, which support innovative cyberinfrastructure and research projects, as well as generous industry gifts. 

This year’s conference featured two days of stimulating presentations and conversations from users, collaborators, and developers. Devin Matthews’ featured talk began the retreat with an exciting discussion of new features that were recently added to BLIS, which allows users of the software to easily supply additional high-performance functionalities to the library. 


BLAS-like Library Instantiation Software (BLIS): Working at the intersection of algorithms and architecture. Credit: Robert van de Geijn and Maggie Myers.

As the retreat got underway, talks spanned topics emphasizing the wide array of BLIS’ potential and scope of use: software optimization, micro-kernel abstraction, SMaLL Frameworks for machine learning libraries, and framework changes only describe the tip of the iceberg in conversations surrounding the software. Industry professionals including Marat Dukhan, Edward Smyth, Greg Henry, and Meghana Vankadari represented Google, AMD, and Intel as presenters, among others. The conference also featured talks from academic researchers from across the world, including RuQuing Xu from the University of Tokyo and Stepan Nassyr from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre.

The final day closed with a talk from van de Geijn, who presented a glimpse into the future of higher-level linear algebra software libraries  built  upon capabilities unleashed by BLIS. These exciting updates led into a lunch between participants and the organizing team, to conclude another year of a successful retreat.