MAHADEV SATYANARAYANAN  (Satya)

Satya's multi-decade research career has focused on the challenges of performance, scalability, availability and trust in information systems that reach from the cloud to the mobile edge of the Internet.  In the course of this work, he has pioneered many advances in distributed systems, mobile computing, pervasive computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Most recently, his seminal 2009 publication “The Case for VM-based Cloudlets in Mobile Computing” has inspired many technical efforts worldwide at the intersection of mobile computing, cloud computing, and IoT and has led to the emergence of Edge Computing (also known as "Fog Computing").

When you use Siri or Android speech recognition on your smartphone today, you are benefitting from a technique called “cloud offload” that was pioneered by Satya's work.  Your speech is captured by a microphone, pre-processed, and then sent over a wireless network to a cloud service that converts speech to text.  This technique was first demonstrated by Satya's research team and described in their 1997 paper “Agile Application-Aware Adaptation for Mobile Computing.”   The evolutionary path from that early work to today's cloud-based mobile systems and IoT systems can be found in Satya’s retrospective “A Brief History of Cloud Offload: A Personal Journey from Odyssey Through Cyber Foraging to Cloudlets.”

Today, virtually all mail clients and document editors on mobile devices support some form of “offline operation” or “disconnected operation” that allows you to work effectively even when no wireless access is available, or when bandwidth and latency are poor.  This capability was first conceived and demonstrated by Satya and his research team in the Coda File System in 1991.  An evolutionary account of this work can be found in Satya’s retrospective,  “The Evolution of Coda.”  The Coda concepts of hoarding, reintegration and application-specific conflict resolution can be found in the hotsync capability of applications on virtually every mobile device today.

Today, DropBox has more than 500 million users and its flagship product gives users the illusion that their files are magically kept in sync on all their mobile devices.  This capability was first demonstrated by Satya and his colleagues in the Andrew File System (AFS) as early as 1984. The creation of DropBox was inspired by its founders' use of AFS as part of the Athena computing environment at MIT, as described in this 2011 Wired magazine article.   The effortless multi-device sharing of data that AFS pioneered has proven to be of high value to users even three decades later.   AFS pioneered the use of scalable file caching, ACL-based security, and volume-based system administration for enterprise-scale information sharing.   AFS was commercialized by IBM, is in widespread use today as OpenAFS, has heavily influenced the NFS v4  network file system protocol standard.  In 2016, AFS was honored with the ACM Software System Award.

Building on the AFS work, Satya was a principal architect of the Coda File System which introduced the concepts of disconnected operation and bandwidth-adaptive weakly-connected operation in distributed file systems.  Key ideas from Coda were incorporated by Microsoft into the IntelliMirror component of Windows 2000 and the Cached Exchange Mode of Outlook 2003.    The Odyssey project explored the partitioning of responsibility between the operating system and applications in adapting to wide variability in critical resources such as wireless network bandwidth and energy in mobile computing.   Through these and other projects such as Aura and Chroma, Satya was a co-inventor of many supporting technologies for mobile computing.  In addition to cyber foraging (also known as "cloud offload"), these include: data staging, lookaside caching, translucent caching and application-aware adaptation.   In the Internet Suspend/Resume system, Satya and his team explored how virtual machine (VM) technology could be leverage for seamless hands-free mobility of legacy software.  Their work has paved the way for the emergence of today's commercial Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) systems.   In the Diamond project, Satya’s team has explored interactive deep search of unindexed complex data such as digital photographs and medical images in domains such as pathology, dermatology and anomaly detection in drug discovery.  The creation of OpenSlide, a widely-used vendor-neutral software library for digital pathology was a by-product of the Diamond work.  Satya’s work on the Olive project, explored the streaming and prefetching of VMs over the Internet as the core mechanism for archived executable content.

At the convergence of cloud computing and mobile computing, Satya’s most recent work in the Elijah and Gabriel projects is exploring the role of cloudlets, which are decentralized cloud computing elements located close to edge of the Internet.  Cloudlets enable mobile devices to offload resource-intensive computation at low latency and high bandwidth, thus pointing the way to futuristic applications such as wearable cognitive assistance on devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens.

Satya is the Carnegie Group Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.  He received the PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon, after Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He is a Fellow of the ACM and the IEEE.  He was the founding Program Chair of the HotMobile series of workshops, the founding Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Pervasive Computing, the founding Area Editor for the Synthesis Series on Mobile and Pervasive Computing, and the founding Program Chair of the First IEEE Symposium on Edge Computing.   He was the founding director of Intel Research Pittsburgh, and was an Advisor to Maginatics, which has created a cloud-based realization of the AFS vision and was acquired by EMC in 2014.