Ken Birman

Cornell University

Reintroducing Guarantees in Cloud Computing Systems


Owners of the biggest data centers have begun to rally in opposition to traditional consistency mechanisms, such as transactions with ACID guarantees and ordered, reliable multicast.  They argue that these primitives scale poorly and can can melt down, disrupting entire data centers.  At eBay, the systems group has adopted five “commandments” of reliability.  “Embrace inconsistency” is near the top of the list.  But this should worry us: properties such as security guarantees and even basic forms of correctness boil down to guarantees that clients won’t experience inconsistencies.  Could a medical records system, or a bank, really build a data center using techniques that embrace inconsistency? In this talk we’ll look at the factors underlying the data center scalability problems.  We’ll show that some recent Cornell’s work on two platforms, one called “Gossip Objects” and the other “Dr. Multicast” may have opened a path towards overcoming these issues and reintroducing strong guarantees in cloud computing systems.



Ken Birman is Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University. He currently heads the QuickSilver project, which is developing a scalable and robust distributed computing platform. Previously he worked on fault-tolerance, security, and reliable multicast. In 1987 he founded a company, Isis Distributed Systems, which developed robust software solutions for stock exchanges, air traffic control, and factory automation. The author of several books and more than 200 journal and conference papers, Dr. Birman was Editor in Chief of ACM Transactions on Computer Systems from 1993-1998 and is a Fellow of the ACM.


B17 Upson Hall

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Refreshments at 3:45pm in the Upson 4th Floor Atrium

Computer Science


Fall 2009