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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

On the Windfall of Friendship: Inoculation Strategies on Social Networks
Citation key MOSW-OWFISSN-08
Author Meier, Dominic and Oswald, Yvonne Anne and Schmid, Stefan and Wattenhofer, Roger
Title of Book 9th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce (EC)
Pages 294–301
Year 2008
ISBN 978-1-60558-169-9
DOI http://dx.doi.org/978-1-60558-169-9
Location Chicago, Illinois, USA
Month July
Abstract This paper studies a virus inoculation game on social networks. A framework is presented which allows the measuring of the windfall of friendship, i.e., how much players benefit if they care about the welfare of their direct neighbors in the social network graph compared to purely selfish environments. We analyze the corresponding equilibria and show that the computation of the worst and best Nash equilibrium is NP-hard. Intriguingly, even though the windfall of friendship can never be negative, the social welfare does not increase monotonically with the extent to which players care for each other. While these phenomena are known on an anecdotal level, our framework allows us to quantify these effects analytically.
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