Brown CS Professor Theophilus “Theo” Benson has just won the Eurosys Best Student Paper Award for co-authoring the paper, “Efficient and Safe Network Updates with Suffix Causal Consistency” (authored by University of North Carolina Chapel Hill student Shen Liu and also co-authored by UNC Professor Michael Reiter), presented at EuroSys 2019. EuroSys is one of the premier systems conferences worldwide, focusing on issues related to systems software research and development, network middleware, database systems, real-time systems, and distributed, parallel, or embedded computing systems.
“Though centrally managed by a controller,” the authors explain, “a software-defined network can still encounter routing inconsistencies among its switches due to the non-atomic updates to their forwarding table. These inconsistencies can allow attackers to circumvent security appliances or lead to dropped packets which impact performance. In this paper, we proposed a new method to rectify these inconsistencies that is inspired by causal consistency, a consistency model for shared-memory systems. Applied to SDNs, causal consistency would imply that once a packet is matched to a forwarding rule in a switch, it can be matched in downstream switches only to rules that are equally or more up-to-date.” The authors focused on a functionally equivalent version of this property called suffix causal consistency, and showed that SCC provided greater efficiency than other competing consistent-update alternatives.
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