Contradictions in advanced cloud-computing research

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Posted September 10, 2013

On first appearances, it might seem as if researchers at the University of California, San Diego Center for Networked Systems are working at cross-purposes to one another.

Many CNS researchers are exploiting the rise of mobile and cloud computing to make data available anytime, anywhere and to anyone, at faster speeds and greater reliability. Meanwhile, their colleagues across the hall (and sometimes even across the desk) strive to make that data impossible for anyone to access at any time—or at least anyone who is not an authorized user.

That philosophical tension is part and parcel of what CNS researchers call “the beauty of the decentralized system,” which has grown to dominate the way people create, share and store information. At its two-day, twice-yearly research review—held earlier this month on the UC San Diego campus—CNS demonstrated its role as a major player in the ongoing process of designing, managing and improving data center and wide-area networks. CNS graduate students were a significant presence at the review as well, both as presenters and as participants in a poster session and reception that showcased their work.

“UCSD is just an awesome place,” enthused research scientist George Porter, who is also the associate director of CNS. He said that the principal investigators at CNS—many of whom are based at the Qualcomm Institute—”are known for making big contributions in designing scalable, fault-tolerable networks and understanding how networks work. They’re known for developing and designing next generation storage technologies and they’re also making advances in terms of security writ large, from understanding how spam works to understanding how to make the computerized systems in cars safer and more reliable.”

If there’s any occupational hazard to working in the field of networked systems, said Porter, it’s that researchers sometimes get so entrenched in their own piece of the puzzle that they don’t always stop to think about what the whole puzzle should look like.


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