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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

Rescuing Tit-for-Tat with Source Coding
Citation key LSW-RTSC-07
Author Locher, Thomas and Schmid, Stefan and Wattenhofer, Roger
Title of Book 7th IEEE International Conference on Peer-to-Peer Computing (P2P)
Pages 3–10
Year 2007
ISBN 978-0-7695-2986-8
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/P2P.2007.10
Location Galway, Ireland
Month September
Abstract Tit-for-tat is widely believed to be the most effective strategy to enforce collaboration among selfish users. However, it has been shown that its usefulness for decentralized and dynamic environments such as peer-to-peer networks is marginal, as peers can rapidly end up in a deadlock situation. Many proposed solutions to this problem are either less resilient to freeloading behavior or induce a computational overhead that cannot be sustained by regular peers. In contrast, we retain tit-for-tat, but enhance the system with a novel form of source coding and an effective scheme to prevent peers from freeloading from seeding peers. We show that our system performs well without the risk of peer starvation and without sacrificing fairness. The proposed solution has a reasonably low overhead, and may hence be suitable for fully distributed content distribution applications in real networks.
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