Dependable Systems and Networks for a Complex World - Yair Amir, Johns Hopkins

Friday, September 28, 2018 - 14:30 to 15:30
NCS 120

Title: Dependable Systems and Networks for a Complex World


As the world becomes more and more complex, the expectations placed on the distributed systems that power our society's infrastructure become more and more demanding. In this talk, we will discuss our experience over the last decade with two classes of increasing technical demands: timeliness and resilience. We will discuss how our work transitioned from research questions to academic solutions (concepts, algorithms, simulations) to deployed systems. Increasing network timeliness demands led us to develop structured overlay networks to support low-latency reliability. Over time, the push for increased timeliness by the media industry led to the invention of specialized overlay protocols to support interactive broadcast quality TV. Most recently, a new push for even lower latency has led to the development of dissemination-graph propagation for remote manipulation applications (e.g. remote robotic surgery).On the resiliency front, standard fault tolerance algorithms are no longer sufficient for many systems due to several overarching trends: the increasing consolidation of enterprise systems into clouds, the increasing connectedness of different systems (including our critical infrastructure) and the increasing potency of the threats. To provide the resilience required for clouds today, our work developed intrusion-tolerant monitoring and control messaging systems that provide timely service on a global scale. To support critical infrastructure in the face of increasing connectedness and threats, we have developed an intrusion-tolerant SCADA system for the power grid that provides timely monitoring and control and consistent state maintenance. Finally, we will discuss some of the factors that have helped us in bringing solutions all the way from academic innovation to deployment, including longer timelines, industry partnership and feedback, strong funding, and thoughtful cultivation of the research group dynamics and paths for student success.


Yair Amir is Professor of Computer Science and the director of the Distributed Systems and Networks (DSN) lab at Johns Hopkins University. From June 2015 to June 2018, he served as the Chair of the Department of Computer Science. His goal is to invent resilient, performant and secure distributed systems that make a difference, collecting friends along the way. Dr. Amir holds B.Sc. (1985) and M.Sc. (1990) from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D (1995) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Dr. Amir is the recipient of the Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award for 2014, the highest teaching award in the Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University. He was a finalist for the Excellence in Mentoring and Advising award in 2014 and for an Excellence in Teaching award in 2013. Dr. Amir was nominated for the DARPA agency-wide "Performer with Significant Technical Achievement" award in 2004, and was the recipient of the DARPA Dynamic Coalitions program Bytes-for-Buck trophy in 2002. His work received the Best Paper award in the IEEE Internationl Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS) in 2017.

Dr. Amir served on various technical program committees including co-chair of the IFIP/IEEE Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN) for 2015, and as an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing (2010-2013).He is a creator of the Spread toolkit (, the first scalable group communication system with strong semantics. He led Secure Spread, developing the first robust key agreement protocols, as well as the Spines overlay network platform (, the SMesh wireless mesh network (, the first seamless 802.11 mesh with fast lossless handoff, the Prime Byzantine replication engine, the first to provide performance guarantees while under attack, and the Spire intrusion-tolerant SCADA for the power grid (, the first to protect against both system-level and network-level attacks and compromises.

Some of these technologies are deployed in mission critical systems, support data center applications, are included in commercial products, and are used for research and teaching in universities and research labs around the world.Until 2016, Dr. Amir led the development of the LTN cloud ( He continues to provide technical leadership at LTN. LTN offers a global transport service for broadcast-quality live TV that is used by major broadcasters including CNN, Fox, Disney, ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, CNBC, ESPN, NBC, PBS, and Turner.

Hosted By: 
Jie Gao
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Dependable Systems and Networks for a Complex World - Yair Amir, Johns Hopkins