Creating a Sense of Stability

What if emergency teams had access to the most up-to-date information on road conditions when responding to a natural disaster? What if soldiers in war-torn regions could tap into the latest intelligence briefings to help avoid dangerous situations? For years CSAIL Principal Investigator Nancy Lynch has dedicated her efforts to creating stable access to unstable networks of devices. A paper on her work, which was largely funded by the National Science Foundation, can be found in this month’s issue of Distributed Computing.

In the paper Lynch, the NEC professor of Software Science and Engineering in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at MIT and the leader of the Theory of Distributed Systems research group at CSAIL, describes how RAMBO (Reconfigurable Atomic Memory for Basic Objects) was originally created to help troops preserve essential information. The system could have applications far beyond the military world though, thanks to its ability to facilitate the sharing of data without a central information point. Future uses could include heavily trafficked websites, shared Internet services, sensor networks and mobile devices.

RAMBO operates through the concept of a simple majority. When information is updated (for example army intelligence) the new data is sent out to a simple majority of users so that several participants will always have access to the information no matter how the network’s structure changes.

Lynch worked on the RAMBO project and paper with Seth Gilbert, who worked in her lab at CSAIL as a graduate student, and Alex Shvartsman, who was a research associate and visiting scientist in Lynch’s lab.

Read more on Lynch's work here.

Abby Abazorius, CSAIL