The Caltech Rigorous Systems Research Group
The Rigorous Systems Research Group (RSRG, pronounced "resurge") studies the design of computer systems, but it's not your ordinary systems group. RSRG is distinguished by its rigorous/analytic approach to design. The group develops new theory, uses theoretical results to provide new design tools and methodologies, puts these new design tools and methodologies into practice, and develops new theory motivated by practice, thus closing the loop.
The research process of RSRG is centered around three principles, the combination of which distinguish RSRG from most other CS systems groups:
- Theory is the foundation. Everybody in the group develops new theoretical results that inform system design and performance analysis.
- Get your hands dirty. Everybody in the group builds, or uses measurements from, systems and prototypes.
- Be truly interdisciplinary. Everybody in the group uses
ideas from disciplines outside computer science (such as
operations research, economics, and control theory) or develops
systems that are used in varied disciplines (such as space
exploration or control of power grids).
This word cloud was generated via wordle using the RSRG web site as an input.
Research in RSRG
Research in RSRG combines development of theory about system
design with development of new tools and techniques to
apply to system design and implementation. The research areas
studied in the group emphasize an integrated approach to
practical applications and fundamental theory.
- The Smart Grid
- Energy efficient computing
- Network protocols
- Network coding
- Wireless networks
- Distributed systems
- Cloud computing
- CDNs and P2Ps
- Stochastic modeling
- Game theory
- Machine learning
- Information theory
- Control theory
- Queueing theory
- Temporal logic
- Applied probability
RSRG is unique because of the interplay between these two sets of interests. Every member of the group works in at least one area from both columns.
Some current areas where RSRG is focusing are:
Algorithms for sustainable IT
Everyone has heard the statistics about how much of an energy hog ICT has become: The emissions of a server are nearly that of a car! The electricity usage of data centers is growing 12 times faster than that of the US as a whole! While the last decade has led to significant improvements in energy-efficiency across IT, there is still a long ways to go to be truly sustainable. This project is led by Adam
Wierman and Steven Low. You can find out more at the Sustainable IT project page and the Resnick Institute website.
Power networks and the smart grid
Modern communication and power networks are undoubtedly the most complex and
critical pieces of infrastructure that the world has created and
relies on. Both are distributed nonlinear feedback control systems of
a massive scale and both have served as a platform for
innovations that have drastically changed our world with impacts far
and energy. We believe the power network will undergo in the next
few decades the same
architectural transformation that the telephone network has recently
gone through to become
more sustainable, more interactive, more open yet secure, more
autonomous, and with
much greater user participation. Our goal
is to develop engineering and economic theories and algorithms that
will help understand
and guide this historic transformation. This project is led by Steven
Low, K. Mani Chandy, and Adam Wierman. More details can be found at the Smart grid project page and the Resnick Institute website.
A theory for privacy
Sensitive information is held by an enormous variety of entities, particularly in today's online world. Some of the challenges in handling it include developing principled models and definitions for privacy guarantees, along with privacy-preserving algorithms and provable bounds on how information privacy can be traded off against its usefulness. Integrating notions of privacy into utility theoretic and decision theoretic frameworks will provide us with more sophisticated means of reasoning about sensitive information. Work in this area is led by Katrina Ligett and Federico Echenique.
It is almost impossible to study networking today without considering economic issues. Economics plays a defining role in routing (e.g., hot potato routing and net neutrality) and further, economics has come to play a major role in how protocols are designed and analyzed (e.g., the analysis of TCP and the design of BitTorrent). In fact, even the study of social networks originated in Economics and Social Sciences. RSRGs work in Network Economics bridges all these areas. This project is led by Adam Wierman and Katrina Ligett. More details can be found at the Network Economics project page and the Social and Information Sciences Laboratory (SISL, pronounced "sizzle") page.
Community sense and respond systems
We tackle a fundamental question in cyber-physical systems: What is
the ideal structure of systems that detect critical events, such as
earthquakes, by using data from large numbers of sensors held and
managed by ordinary people in the community? The approach is to
develop theory about widely-distributed sense and respond systems,
using dynamic, and possibly unreliable, networks using sensors and
responders installed and managed by ordinary citizens, and to apply
the theory to problems important to society. Current research is
developing sense and respond systems for earthquake detection and
radiation detection. This project is led by K. Mani Chandy and
Andreas Krause. More details can be found on the Infospheres project page.
To find out about other ongoing projects,
please check out Rigor + Relevance (the RSRG Blog), along with the personal pages for the