Katherine E. Isaacs


External Links

Project Code


I am an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. My interests are at the intersection information visualization and computing systems. I develop new methods of representing complex computing processes for exploration and analysis of their performance. I maintain a survey of such visualizations here.


Ravel - Parallel Execution Trace Visualization

Traces are records of actions occurring during a program's execution, such as function calls and communication. They are a powerful tool in performance analysis as they can contain the detailed data necessary to reconstruct exactly what occurred. However, understanding traces is difficult due to the huge number of actions and relationships among all processes. As such, timeline visualizations are frequently employed to explore the data. Unfortunately, timelines become cluttered and difficult to interpret for even moderate numbers of processes.

Ravel focuses on increasing the scalability and utility of trace visualizations via a structure-centric approach which approximates the developers' intended organization of trace events. Visualizing this logical structure untangles communication patterns, allows aggregation in process space, and provides users with much needed context. Analyses using Ravel have led to the discovery and understanding of performance issues in several massively parallel applications.

Visualization - InfoVis '14 | Logical structure - TPDS | Logical structure - SC15 | Ravel on github

Boxfish - Linking Domains and Network Visualization

Numerous factors, such as the placement of specific tasks in the hardware, their timing data, and functions of multiple tasks, affect the performance of parallel applications. Boxfish was developed to support visualizing these relationships. Boxfish manages complex filtering of data and linking of visualizations, even when these relationships are not direct or bijective. Several network visualization modules have been developed for Boxfish, including multiple views of 3D torus/mesh networks and a 5D torus/mesh. Analysis using these visualizations in Boxfish has aided in understanding the interactions of task assignment and the underlying system network for both individual applications and the interactions of several applications on a shared system.

Boxfish on github | Boxfish poster abstract - SC12

Visualization Modules

3D torus visualization - InfoVis '12 | 5D torus visualization - VPA '14


Task mapping - SC12 | Job placement - SC13 | Task mapping, 5D torus - HiPC '14

Scalable Communication Visualization

Traditional statistical plots and graphics for performance analysis may prove ineffective because they do not show data in the most meaningful context. For one library, this meant mapping performance data to its communication overlay. The communication graph grows as the application uses increasing numbers of parallel processes. This requires a visualization that aggregates intelligently to scale with that parallism while still depicting behaviors of interest.

Novels Views - SC12