An AMP Blab about some recent system conferences – Part 1: SOSP 2011

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting Portugal for SOSP/SOCC, and New York for Hadoop World. Below are some bits that I found interesting. This is the personal opinion of an AMP Lab grad student – in no way does it represent any official or unanimous AMP Lab position.

Part 1: Symposium on Operating System Principles (SOSP) 2011

A very diverse and high quality technical program, as expected. You can find the proceedings and talk slides/videos at http://sigops.org/sosp/sosp11/current/index.html.

One high-level reaction I have from the conference is that AMP Lab’s observe-analyze-act design loop position us well to identify emerging technology trends, and design systems with high impact under real life scenarios. Our industry partnerships would also allow us to address engineering concerns beyond the laboratory, thus expedite bilateral knowledge transfer between academia and industry.

One best-paper award went to “A File is Not a File: Understanding the I/O Behavior of Apple Desktop Applications”, authored by our friends from Univ. of Wisconsin, Professors Andrea and Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau, as well as their students. The paper did an elaborate study of Apple laptop file traces, and found many pathological behavior. For example, a file “write” actually writes a file multiple times, a file “open” touches a great number of seemingly unrelated files.

Another best-paper award went to “Cells: A Virtual Mobile Smartphone Architecture” from Columbia. This study proposes and implements “virtual phones”, the same idea as virtual machines, for example running a “work phone” and a “home phone” on the same physical device. The talk highlight was a demo of two versions of the Angry Birds game running simultaneously on the same phone.

The audiences-choice best presentation award went to “Atlantis: Robust, Extensible Execution Environments for Web Applications”, a joint work between MSR and Rutgers. The talk very humorously surveyed the defects of current Internet browsers, and proposes an “exokernel browser” architecture in which web applications have the flexibility to define their own execution stack, e.g. markup languages, scripting environments, etc. As expected, the talk catalyzed very entertaining questioning from companies with business interests in the future of web browsers.

Also worthy of highlighting – the session on Security contained three papers, all three have Professor Nickolai Zeldovich on the author list, and all three of high quality. I have not done a thorough historical search, but I’m sure it’s rare that a single author manages to fill a complete session at SOSP.

There was also a very lively discussion on ACM copyright policies during the SIGOPS working dinner. I personally believe it’s vital that we find policies that balances concern about upholding the quality of research, preserving the strength of the research community, and facilitating the sharing of cutting edge knowledge and insights.

My own talk on “Design Implications for Enterprise Storage Systems via Multi-Dimensional Trace Analysis” went very well. This is a study that performs an empirical analysis on large scale enterprise storage traces, identify different workloads, and discuss design insights specifically targeted at each workload. The rigorous trace analysis allow us to identify simple, threshold-based storage system optimizations, with high confidence that the optimizations bring concrete benefit under realistic settings. Big thank you to everyone at AMP Lab and our co-authors at NetApp for helping me prepare the talk!

Lisbon travel note 1: If history/food is dear to your heart, you will find it worthwhile to visit the Jerónimos Monastery, and try the Pasteis de Nata sold nearby. This is THE authentic egg tart, originated at the Monastery, and very good for a mid-day sugar-high. I had too many – I felt too happy after eating the first 10, lost count of how many more I ate, and skipped lunch and dinner for that day.

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