International award for influential research on program runtime prediction

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Reinhard Wilhelm, award winner and professor emeritus of computer science at Saarland University. Photo: Raphael Reischuk

Knowing how long a program needs to perform its calculations is of central importance for many applications. Only with this knowledge can one guarantee that time-critical systems in cars, airplanes or industrial plants react in time. The architecture of the computer on which software runs is very important for the runtime of programs and their analysis. In 2003, a team of computer scientists from Saarland University led by Professor Reinhard Wilhelm showed exactly how important this is – and for this they have now been awarded a Test-of-Time Award at the world’s largest conference for real-time systems.

Reinhard Wilhelm and his colleagues Reinhold Heckmann, Marc Langenbach and Stephan Thesing published the award-winning paper entitled “The Influence of Processor Architecture on the Design and the Results of WCET Tools” almost 20 years ago in the journal “Proceedings of the IEEE”, which is published by the world’s largest engineering association, the “Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers”. “In this work, we investigated how the computer architecture influences the runtime of programs – and how the tools for calculating the program runtime have to be adapted accordingly,” explains the Professor Emeritus of Saarland University.

The work of the Saarbrücken computer scientists had a major impact on research. The paper gave a significant push to the research field of so-called ‘timing predictability’, which investigates the framework conditions that can be used to predict the runtime of a program. “We had already developed very successful tools for runtime prediction for several architectures and were therefore able to draw on a wealth of practical experience and very specifically name shortcomings of computer architectures at the time, highlight processors that worked particularly well and thus make recommendations for the manufacturing industry,” says Reinhard Wilhelm.

As great as the impact on research has been, the sweeping success in the industry has remained elusive because time-critical systems do not claim a dominant share of the processor market. “Curiously, two of the best-known hardware-related security vulnerabilities of recent years, Spectre and Meltdown, are based on the same causes that we identified as problematic for predicting program runtimes almost 20 years ago – maybe we were just too early?” says Reinhard Wilhelm.

The Test-of-Time Award of the IEEE Technical Committee on Real-Time Systems (TCRTS) was awarded on December 9, 2021, at the 42nd IEEE Real-Time Systems Symposium (RTSS), the world’s largest conference on real-time systems. The award recognizes works within the research area of real-time systems that have left a particularly lasting impact. “Receiving such an international award is of course a special honor. It confirms our work once again and shows that we have approached the problems in the right way,” says Reinhard Wilhelm.


Original publication:
R. Heckmann, M. Langenbach, S. Thesing and R. Wilhelm, „The influence of processor architecture on the design and the results of WCET tools,“ in Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 91, no. 7, pp. 1038-1054, July 2003, doi: 10.1109/JPROC.2003.814618.;


Further information:


Questions can be directed at:
Prof. em. Dr. Dr. h.c. Reinhard Wilhelm
Tel.: +49 (0)681 – 302 – 3434

Die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit am Saarland Informatics Campus wird unterstützt durch das Kompetenzzentrum Informatik Saarland, gefördert aus Mitteln des Europäischen Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) und Mitteln der Staatskanzlei Saarland.

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