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Colloquium with Ken Birman, Cornell University
November 20, 2015 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm UTC-5
Please join us for the Inaugural lecture in the CSE 30th Anniversary Colloquium Series.
The History of Research on Fault Tolerance and Consistency in Computing Systems: Past, Present and a Glimpse of the Future
My research explores techniques for ensuring that distributed computing systems (today we call them cloud computing) can function despite crashes, and guarantee consistency: not exhibit self-contradictory behavior. In this talk I’ll review the history of the topic, with a focus on two controversies: in 1993 and then again in 2000, prominent researchers claimed that consistency is just too costly and that large-scale systems should give up on that guarantee. Now known as the CAP conjecture, the modern version of this claim is often cited in today’s largest computing systems. The concern is that smart cars, homes and even medical systems might thus be forced to depend on inconsistent data. Very concretely, I’m currently working with developers of the smart power grid, and in this setting, inconsistency could be dangerous. But I’ll also argue that future systems should be able to overcome CAP and guarantee the needed properties.
Bio: Ken Birman is the N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science at Cornell. An ACM Fellow and the winner of the IEEE Tsutomu Kanai award, Ken has written 3 textbooks and published more than 150 papers in prestigious journals and conferences. Software he developed operated the New York Stock Exchange for more than a decade without trading disruptions, and played central roles in the French Air Traffic Control System (now expanding into much of Europe) and the US Navy AEGIS warship. Other technologies from his group found their way into IBM’s Websphere product, Amazon’s EC2 and S3 systems, Microsoft’s cluster management solutions. His Isis2 system (isis2.codeplex.com) helps developers create secure, strongly consistent and scalable cloud computing solutions. Starting in 2010, Birman’s focus has shifted to the smart power grid; he works both at the scale of the bulk power transmission network (as part of a consortium led by ISO New England and that includes NYPA and ISO New York) as well as at the scale of smaller distribution networks where the focus is on privacy-preservation for algorithms that employ smart meters in the home.