Graduation Year: 
paul mckenny photo

B.S. Computer Science, 1981
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1981
Distinguished Engineer IBM Linux Technology Center
Hillsboro, Oregon

Even after Paul McKenney’s long and illustrious career as a software engineer, he continues to benefit from the emphasis during his graduate and undergraduate coursework on solving real-world problems.

“The thing about Oregon State University then and now is a strong focus on practice and practical matters,” he said.

After graduating, McKenney worked as a contract developer before signing on at SRI International as a systems programmer. In the very early days of the Internet, his job included researching ways of improving it. Later, he worked at Sequent, eventually purchased by IBM, on their parallel UNIX kernel. McKenney holds more than 100 patents. His contributions include the invention of high-speed fair-queueing mechanisms used in Internet congestion control, parallel memory-allocation algorithms, and, perhaps most notably, the Linux kernel’s read-copy update (RCU). RCU is a highly scalable method of coordinating work in a multicore system. As one of the Linux community’s experts on parallel computing, McKenney’s responsibilities at IBM include maintaining the RCU component of the Linux kernel.

McKenney earned a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering in 2004 from the OGI School of Science and Engineering at Oregon Health & Science University while continuing to work full time. He has published one book and more than 200 other publications. He serves as chair of the program committee for the Linux Plumbers Conference and sits on the program committee for the Linux Kernel Summit. He is also a member of Oregon State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Industrial Advisory Board.