What are the Right Roles for Formal Methods in High Assurance Cloud Computing?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Distinguished Colloquium Series Speaker
Computer Science Small Auditorium (Room 105)
Host: Michael Freedman
Ken Birman (Cornell University)
The developer of a high assurance system must justify the fitness of the system for the intended use. In "small" scenarios, this problem is well understood: it entails rigorously specifying properties the system must achieve, designing protocols and correctness proofs, and then implementing and testing the needed code. In scaled-out settings, complex architectures are often unavoidable and this methodology can no longer be used.

This talk focuses on how the resulting problems play out in the context of Isis2 (isis2.codeplex.com), a new system I've been building that supports a wide range of high-assurance properties for applications that will be hosted on cloud computing datacenters, and hence might need to run at very ambitious scale.

We'll see that while it is possible to create systems of these kinds, existing formal methods are ill-suited to reasoning about the resulting solutions, suggesting that additional work will be needed to bridge between the mathematical and scientific foundations of high assurance of the kinds we teach in academic settings and the real-world instances of such problems that we may face in the near future.

Ken Birman is the N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University, where he has headed a research effort in the area of high assurance distributed computing for thirty years. Ken is best known for inventing the virtual synchrony computing model and building the Isis Toolkit, which was ultimately used to build the system that operated the New York Stock Exchange for more than a decade, and the systems that continue to operate the French Air Traffic Control system and the US Navy AEGIS today. He also pioneered in the use of gossip protocols for system monitoring, management and control; several of his solutions are used today in the platforms that operate today's largest cloud computing infrastructures, notably at Amazon, IBM and Microsoft. A Fellow of the ACM since 1999, Ken won the 2009 IEEE Kanai Award for his research in distributed systems. He is currently developing online instructional materials for a short course on building high assurance cloud computing systems using his Isis2 platform.