SnT seminar: Leveraging RDMA for Strongly Consistent Replication at Large Scale

The SnT is organising a seminar on ‘Leveraging RDMA for Strongly Consistent Replication at Large Scale’, held by Professor Ken Birman from Cornell University. The seminar, which takes place on Friday, 31 March 2017, is organised by Prof Björn Ottersten (Director SnT) and Prof Paulo Verissimo (FNR PEARL Chair).

Date, time and location

Friday, 31 March 2017, 11:00 – 13:00

Room 4.390, Maison du Savoir, Belval Campus, 2, avenue de l’Université, L-4365 Esch-sur-Alzette


Ken Birman’s work focuses on ways of replicating data in demanding settings, most recently the cloud. The cloud is a setting where copying information and replicating data or computation is common, yet it remains difficult to actually create new applications that leverage replication. Moreover, the existing libraries are very slow.

He will present work on Derecho, a blazingly fast C++ library for creating scalable data replication solutions. Derecho has a remarkably simple API and very low overheads, shifting as much work as possible from runtime to compile time. Birman separates control plane from data plane, sending data on RDMA over a multicast overlay, then using an RDMA-based distributed shared memory to coordinate delivery so as to ensure total ordering, data persistency or other desired properties such as virtually synchronous membership management. The overall framework is minimalist, yet can support complex applications, including ones that have subgroup structures or that shard data within larger sets of nodes. Derecho consistency subsumes both Paxos and virtual synchrony multicast into a single model.

Performance is very satisfying: As an atomic multicast, Derecho is tens of thousands of times faster than commonly used libraries, and as Paxos, it beats prior solutions by large factors while scaling far better than any existing Paxos solution.

About the speaker

Ken Birman has been a systems researcher and faculty member at Cornell University since getting his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1981. He is best known for work on virtually synchronous process group computing models (an early version of what has become known as the Paxos family of protocols), and his software has been widely used. The Isis Toolkit that Ken built ran the NYSE for more than a decade, and is still used to operate many aspects of the communication system in the French air traffic control system. A follow-on named Vsync is widely used in graduate courses that teach distributed computing. This talk is based on his newest system, called Derecho.

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