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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

The Weakest Failure Detectors to Solve Certain Fundamental Problems in Distributed Computing
Citation key DFHGKT-WFDSCFPDC-04
Author Delporte-Gallet, Carole and Fauconnier, Hugues and Hadzilacos, Vassos and Guerraoui, Rachid and Kouznetsov, Petr and Toueg, Sam
Title of Book Proceedings of the 23rd ACM Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing (PODC '04)
Pages 338–346
Year 2004
ISBN 1-58113-802-4
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1011767.1011818
Location St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Address New York, NY, USA
Publisher ACM
Abstract We determine the weakest failure detectors to solve several fundamental problems in distributed message-passing systems, for all environments – i.e., regardless of the number and timing of crashes. The problems that we consider are: implementing an atomic register, solving consensus, solving quittable consensus (a variant of consensus in which processes have the option to decide 'quit' if a failure occurs), and solving non-blocking atomic commit.
Link to publication Download Bibtex entry

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