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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?

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Selected Publications

Cryptree: A Folder Tree Structure for Cryptographic File Systems
Citation key GMSW-CFTSCFS-06
Author Grolimund, Dominik and Meisser, Luzius and Schmid, Stefan and Wattenhofer, Roger
Title of Book 25th IEEE Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems (SRDS)
Pages 189–198
Year 2006
ISBN 0-7695-2677-2
ISSN 1060-9857
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/SRDS.2006.15
Location Leeds, United Kingdom
Month October
Abstract We present Cryptree, a cryptographic tree structure which facilitates access control in file systems operating on untrusted storage. Cryptree leverages the file system's folder hierarchy to achieve efficient and intuitive, yet simple, access control. The highlights are its ability to recursively grant access to a folder and all its subfolders in constant time, the dynamic inheritance of access rights which inherently prevents scattering of access rights, and the possibility to grant someone access to a file or folder without revealing the identities of other accessors. To reason about and to visualize Cryptree, we introduce the notion of cryptographic links. We describe the Cryptrees we have used to enforce read and write access in our own file system. Finally, we measure the performance of the Cryptree and compare it to other approaches.
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