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Showing posts from May, 2011

Reflections on Fast, User-Level Networking

A couple of weeks ago at HotOS, one of the most controversial papers (from Stanford) was entitled "It's Time for Low Latency." The basic premise of the paper is that clusters are stuck using expensive, high-latency network interfaces (generally TCP/IP over some flavor of Ethernet), but it should now be possible to achieve sub-10-microsecond round-trip-times for RPCs. Of course, a tremendous amount of research looked at low-latency, high-bandwidth cluster networking in the mid-1990's, including Active Messages, the Virtual Interface Architecture, and U-Net (which I was involved with as an undergrad at Cornell). A bunch of commercial products were available in this space, including Myrinet (still the best, IMHO) and InfiniBand.

Not much of this work has really taken off in commercial datacenters. John Ousterhout and Steve Rumble argue that this is because the commercial need for low latency networking hasn't been there until now. Indeed, when we were working on thi…

Conference report: HotOS 2011 in Napa

This week, I served as program chair for the Thirteenth Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems, or HotOS 2011, which took place at the Westin Verasa in Napa, California. HotOS is a unique workshop and one of my favorite venues -- it is the place for systems researchers to put forth their most forward-thinking ideas. Unlike most conferences, HotOS takes 5-page position papers, and it's expected that the submission really represents a position, not a mature piece of technical work condensed into the shorter format.

When it's done right, HotOS is full of great, big sky papers and lots of heated discussions that give the community a chance to think about what's next. In some years, HotOS has been more like an "SOSP preview," with 5-page versions of papers that are likely to appear in a major conference a few months after the workshop. We tried to avoid that this year, and for the most part I think we were successful -- very few papers in this year's HotOS wer…

How can academics do research on cloud computing?

This week I'm in Napa for HotOS 2011 -- the premier workshop on operating systems. HotOS is in its 24th year -- it started as the Workshop on Workstation Operating Systems in 1987. More on HotOS in a forthcoming blog post, but for now I wanted to comment on a very lively argument discussion that took place during the panel session yesterday.
The panel consisted of Mendel Rosenblum from Stanford (and VMWare, of course); Rebecca Isaacs from Microsoft Research; John Wilkes from Google; and Ion Stoica from Berkeley. The charge to the panel was to discuss the gap between academic research in cloud computing and the realities faced by industry. This came about in part because a bunch of cloud papers were submitted to HotOS from academic research groups. In some cases, the PC felt that the papers were trying to solve the wrong problems, or making incorrect assumptions about the state of cloud computing in the real world. We thought it would be interesting to hear from both academic and in…

What I'm working on at Google: Making the mobile web fast

A bunch of people have asked me what I work on at Google these days. When I joined Google last July in the Cambridge office, I worked with the team that runs Google’s content delivery network, which is responsible for caching a vast amount of (mostly video) content at many sites around the world. It is a fantastic project with some great people. My own work focused on building tools to measure and evaluate wide-area network performance and detect performance problems. This was a great “starter project,” and I got to build and deploy some pretty large systems that now run on Google’s worldwide fleet.

Now that I’m in Seattle, I am heading my own team with the charter to make the mobile web fast. By “mobile web”, I mean the entire web as accessed from all mobile devices, not just Google services and not just Android. While Android is a big focus of our work, we care a lot about improving performance for all mobile devices. This project is an outgrowth of Google’s broader make the web fast…