Ken Birman

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Ken Birman
Born November 18, 1955 (1955-11-18) (age 61)
New York City, New York
Residence Ithaca, New York
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Occupation N. Rama Rao Chair in Computer Science, Cornell University College of Computing and Information Science
Spouse(s) Anne Neirynck

Ken Birman (born November 18, 1955) is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University. He is best known for developing the Isis Toolkit,[1][2][3] which introduced the virtual synchrony execution model for multicast communication and then and founding a company, Isis Distributed Systems, that used it as the basis for a wide range of robust software solutions for stock exchanges, air traffic control, and factory automation. Although the company no longer exists, Isis operated the New York and Swiss Stock Exchanges for more than a decade, and continues to be actively used in the French air traffic control system and the US Navy AEGIS warship.[4] The technology permits these and other systems to automatically adapt themselves when failures or other disruptions occur, to securely share keys and security policy data, and to replicate critical services so that availability can be maintained even while some system components are down. A new version of the Isis technology, called Vsync, is now available as an open-source free library. Other widely cited systems from his Cornell research effort include the Bimodal Multicast [5] (a probabilistically reliable broadcast protocol that uses the gossip paradigm) and Astrolabe [6] (a scalable tool for monitoring, data mining and managing large systems).

An ACM Fellow and IEEE Fellow, Birman is also the author of several books, most recently "Reliable Distributed Computing: Technologies, Web Services, and Applications", which was published by Springer-Verlag in May 2007.[7] He was Editor in Chief of ACM Transactions on Computer Systems from 1993-1998. Birman’s primary research emphasis is currently concerned with the scalability of distributed systems, security technologies, and system management tools employed in cloud computing systems.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Birman, Kenneth P. Guide to Reliable Distributed Systems: Building High-Assurance Applications and Cloud-Hosted Services. Textbook, 2012, 730p. 138 illus. (Springer Verlag)
  • Birman, Kenneth P, Lakshmi Ganesh, and Robbert van Renesse. Running Smart Grid Control Software on Cloud Computing Architectures. Workshop on Computational Needs for the Next Generation Electric Grid, Cornell University, April 19–20, 2011. Ithaca, NY.
  • Freedman, Daniel A., Tudor Marian, Kenneth P. Birman, Hakim Weatherspoon. 2010. Exact temporal characterization of a 10 Gbps optical wide-area network. Melbourne, Australia November.
  • Surton, Robert, Kenneth P. Birman, R van Renesse 2013. Non-Stop Routing for BGP with Application-Driven TCP Recovery. Distributed Systems and Networks (DSN), Budapest, June.
  • Birman, Kenneth P., Daniel A. Freedman and Qi Huang. Overcoming CAP with Consistent Soft-State Replication. IEEE Computer Magazine (special issue on “The Growing Impact of the CAP Theorem”). Volume 12. pp. 50–58. February 2012.
  • Vigfusson, Ymir, Hussam Abu-Libdeh, Mahesh Balakrishnan, Ken Birman, Robert Burgess, Haoyuan Li, Gregory Chockler, Yoav Tock. Dr. Multicast: Rx for Data Center Communication Scalability. ACM SIGOPS European Systems Conference (Eurosys), April 2010 (Paris, France). ACM SIGOPS 2010, pp. 349–362.

Selected awards and honors[edit]

  • IEEE Technical Committee on Distributed Processing Outstanding Achievement Award 2009
  • IEEE Tsutomu Kanai Award for Distributed Computing 2009
  • Research Visionary Award (Cisco Corporation) 2008
  • Appointed N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science 2009
  • IEEE Senior Member (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 2012
  • ACM SIGOPS Hall of Fame Award 2013 (for "Exploiting Virtual Synchrony in Distributed Systems", published in the 1987 ACM SOSP conference).



A complete list of Birman's publications can be found here.

Birman's group has built quite a bit of software that can be downloaded, free (notably his new Isis2 platform: A web page describing other available technologies is here.

  1. ^ Birman, Kenneth; Joseph, Thomas (Nov 1987). "Reliable communication in the presence of failures". ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. 5 (1). 
  2. ^ Birman, Kenneth; Van Renesse, Robbert (1994). Reliable distributed computing with the Isis toolkit. IEEE Computer Society Press. 
  3. ^ Birman, Kenneth (1993). "The process group approach to reliable distributed computing". Communications of the ACM. 36 (12): 37–53. doi:10.1145/163298.163303. 
  4. ^ Birman, Kenneth (July 1999). "A Review of Experiences with Reliable Multicast". Software Practice and Experience. 29 (9): 741–774. doi:10.1002/(sici)1097-024x(19990725)29:9<741::aid-spe259>;2-i. 
  5. ^ Birman, Kenneth; Hayden, Mark; Ozkasap, Oznur; Xiao, Zhen; Budiu, Mihai; Minsky, Yaron (1999). "Bimodal multicast". ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. 17 (2): 41–88. doi:10.1145/312203.312207. 
  6. ^ Van Renesse, Robbert; Birman, Kenneth; Vogels, Werner (2003). "Astrolabe: A robust and scalable technology for distributed system monitoring, management, and data mining". ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. 21 (2): 164–206. doi:10.1145/762483.762485. 
  7. ^ Birman, Kenneth (2012). Guide to Reliable Distributed Systems. Building High-Assurance Applications and Cloud-Hosted Services. Springer Verlag. 
  8. ^ "Cornell University College of Engineering Faculty". 2013. Cornell University. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 

External links[edit]