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Distributed Systems

Almost every computing system nowadays is distributed, ranging from multi-core laptops to Internet-scale services; understanding the principles of distributed computing is hence important for the design and engineering of modern computing systems.  Fundamental issues that arise in reliable and efficient distributed systems include developing adequate methods for modeling failures and synchrony assumptions, determining precise performance bounds on implementations of concurrent data structures, capturing the trade-off between consistency and efficiency, and demarcating the frontier of feasibility in distributed computing.

For example, popular Internet services and applications such as CNN.com, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, BitTorrent attract millions of users every day, and only by the effective load-balancing and collaboration of many thousand machines, an acceptable Quality-of-Service/Quality-of-Experience can be guaranteed. While distributed systems promise a good scalability as well as a high robustness, they pose challenging research problems, such as: How to design robust and scalable distributed architectures and services? How to coordinate access to a shared resource, e.g., by electing a leader? Or how to provide incentives for cooperation in an open, collaborative distributed system?

Selected Publications

When Selfish Meets Evil: Byzantine Players in a Virus Inoculation Game
Zitatschlüssel MSW-WSMEBPVIC-06
Autor Moscibroda, Thomas and Schmid, Stefan and Wattenhofer, Roger
Buchtitel 25th Annual Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing (PODC)
Seiten 35–44
Jahr 2006
ISBN 1-59593-384-0
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1146381.1146391
Ort Denver, Colorado, USA
Monat July
Zusammenfassung Over the last years, game theory has provided great insights into the behavior of distributed systems by modeling the players as utility-maximizing agents. In particular, it has been shown that selfishness causes many systems to perform in a globally suboptimal fashion. Such systems are said to have a large Price of Anarchy. In this paper, we extend this active field of research by allowing some players to be malicious or Byzantine rather than selfish. We ask: What is the impact of Byzantine players on the system's efficiency compared to purely selfish environments or compared to the social optimum? In particular, we introduce the Price of Malice which captures this efficiency degradation. As an example, we analyze the Price of Malice of a game which models the containment of the spread of viruses. In this game, each node can choose whether or not to install anti-virus software. Then, a virus starts from a random node and iteratively infects all neighboring nodes which are not inoculated. We establish various results about this game. For instance, we quantify how much the presence of Byzantine players can deteriorate or–-in case of highly risk-averse selfish players–-improve the social welfare of the distributed system.
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