Unanimous: System Research Group talklet

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I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on consensus for the edge network with the SRG today, abstract below

Many projects in the SRG at the moment (HAT, UCN, contacts app, MirageOS for ARM, Jitsu, databox, signposts) are trying to give individuals an viable alternative to 3rd party centralised services and put them back in control of their personal data. However developing applications for the hostile edge network, with its heterogeneous hosts and networks, trust issues and poorly understood middle boxes is tricky. This is made worse by the fact that consensus algorithms are famously difficult to use, underspecified and based on decade old assumption about the internet. In this talklet, I will motivate Unanimous, a new consensus algorithm for the modern internet.

NB: this is a practice talk for EuroSys doctoral workshop next Tuesday, thus this 5 min talk will simply motivate a research direction instead of presenting a complete solution.
EDIT (17/4): these slides are now online

EuroSys 2015

I am incredibility excited to announce that I’ll be attending this year’s EuroSys and its Doctoral Workshop. I’m hope to live blog the event over at syslog.

Any recommendations of papers to look out for?

Mail me if your going and would like to meet up in Bordeaux.

3 Upcoming talks

I’ve just updated my Research pages with 3 upcoming talks. More details to follow, in particular the topic for the April talk at the Computer Lab, as I cannot reuse the topics from either of the other talks.

“TBC” – Women@CL Talklet Series, University of Cambridge, April 2015

“Life on the Edge (Network)” – 2nd Oxbridge Women in Computer Science Conference, Oxford University, March 2015

On the Edge: Future-proofing the Internet with Signposts” – Systems Research Group Talklet, Date TBC

2nd Annual Oxbridge Women in Computer Science Conference

I’ve just registered to attend the 2nd Annual Oxbridge Women in Computer Science Conference on 16th March 2015. I may presenting a poster or even giving talk. My submitted abstract is below:

Life on the Edge (Network)

The internet has abandoned the end-to-end principles on which it was established. With IPv4 addresses depleted, devices are left behind NATs and firewalls, with the transition to IPv6 yet to restore their public identity. Instead of dealing with complexity of the edge network, users opted to use centralized cloud services, offering usability and high availability.

In this post-snowden era, users are beginning to question their decision in fear of censorship and mass-surveillance. Furthermore, a series of highly publicized data branches and DDoS attack has shed light on the weak guarantees provided by opaque terms of service which are engineered to minimize legal responsibility. Many peer to peer applications such as multi player gaming and video conferencing need to low latency characteristics of edge network connections. Even in this modern world, users need the ability to establish inter-device connectivity without a full internet connection, for example to isolate local processing of personal data from the Internet Of Things or connecting between personal devices on the go.

In response to this demand, developers are building new applications for the edge network, they are reimplementing solutions to establishing authenticated identities, distributed consensus and availability in the face of mobile nodes, pervasive network partitioning, asymmetric channels and Byzantine failures. Without a clear stack and layer of abstraction, systems fail to provide even the most basic safety guarantees. Protocols are layered on of either other without formal agreement on the services provided at each layer. Even after this engineering effort by developers systems still require intricate configuration to deal with the diversity of devices, middleboxes and network environments on the edge network, if they are able to work at all. Developers made crude assumptions about their applications requirement e.g. assuming all application data needs the same level of consistency and fault tolerance.

We propose a new common abstraction between applications and the networked devices to form a personal cloud for every individual. Programmers (and ultimately users) formally specific the requirement for the data items, these requirements span domains in fault tolerance, replication, consistency, caching, accessibility, security levels and confidentiality. This foundation will enable us to develop new systems for handling personal data to finally put the individual back in control of their own data.

I would like to apply for both a talk and a poster on this topic. This topic is highly interdisciplinary both within and beyond computer science. Everyone (who uses the internet) will be able to relate to this topic and thus I think all the Oxbridge women will be able to take something away from this talk regardless of their particular field of computer science and stage of study. Whilst the talk will be of interest to a wider audience, the poster will focus on the proposed architecture of the system and the technical challenges of the working with the edge network.