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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

Free Riding in BitTorrent is Cheap
Citation key LMSW-FRBC-06
Author Locher, Thomas and Moor, Patrick and Schmid, Stefan and Wattenhofer, Roger
Title of Book 5th Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks (HotNets)
Pages 85–90
Year 2006
Location Irvine, California, USA
Month November
Abstract While it is well-known that BitTorrent is vulnerable to selfish behavior, this paper demonstrates that even entire files can be downloaded without reciprocating at all in BitTorrent. To this end, we present BitThief, a free riding client that never contributes any real data. First, we show that simple tricks suffice in order to achieve high download rates, even in the absence of seeders. We also illustrate how peers in a swarm react to various sophisticated attacks. Moreover, our analysis reveals that sharing communities–-communities originally intended to offer downloads of good quality and to promote cooperation among peers–-provide many incentives to cheat.
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