AFS was the first distributed file system designed for tens of thousands of machines, and pioneered the use of scalable, secure and ubiquitous access to shared file data. To achieve the goal of providing a common shared file system used by large networks of people, AFS introduced novel approaches to caching, security, management and administration.
The award recipients, including Computer Science Professor Mahadev Satyanarayanan, built the Andrew File System in the 1980s while working as a team at the Information Technology Center (ITC) — a partnership between Carnegie Mellon and IBM.
The ACM Software System Award is presented to an institution or individuals recognized for developing a software system that has had a lasting influence, reflected in contributions to concepts, in commercial acceptance, or both.
AFS is still in use today as both an open-source system and as a file system in commercial applications. It has also inspired several cloud-based storage applications. Many universities integrated AFS before it was introduced as a commercial application.
In addition to Satya, the recipients of the award include former faculty member Alfred Z. Spector, alumnus Michael L. Kazar, Robert N. Sidebotham, David A. Nichols, Michael J. West, John H. Howard and Sherri M. Nichols. Many of them also contributed to two foundational AFS papers: "The ITC Distributed File System: Principles and Design," published in Proceedings of ACM SOSP 1985, and "Scale and Performance in a Distributed File System," published in Proceedings of ACM SOSP 1987.
The Software System Award carries a prize of $35,000. Financial support for the Software System Award is provided by IBM.