Antonis Katsarakis receives the EuroSys Roger Needham PhD Award
Antonis Katsarakis, a former Informatics student, has received the EuroSys Roger Needham PhD Award - Honorable Mention. This is the first time that an Informatics student received this highly prestigious award.
Antonis was a student in ICSA and the Pervasive Parallelism CDT. His thesis was titled “Invalidation-based Protocols for Replicated Datastores”, co-supervised by Boris Grot and Vijay Nagarajan. Today Antonis is a Principal Researcher at Huawei Research in Edinburgh, where he researches and builds next generation databases.
His thesis is about how popular applications, such as social networks, telecommunications, and financial services, store and manage large amounts of data. These applications use so-called "datastores" to store data across multiple machines.
Because these applications have many users making data requests at the same time, the datastores need to be able to handle these requests quickly and efficiently. To achieve this, the datastores create copies of the data on different machines, a process known as replication. Replication not only improves performance but also ensures that the data remains accessible even if some machines fail or have other issues.
To keep all the replicas of the data consistent (meaning they all have the same up-to-date information), the datastores use replication protocols. These protocols define the specific actions needed to access and update the data, while also providing the illusion that there is only one copy of the data, even with faults occurring.
However, the existing replication protocols used by datastores have limitations when it comes to performance. On the other hand, there are well-established protocols used in computers with multiple processors that ensure strong consistency but cannot tolerate failures.
In his thesis, Antonis noticed that the faults commonly encountered in datastores are not exactly the same as those in a multiprocessor setting. Based on this observation, he proposes using protocols inspired by multiprocessors to improve the performance of replicated datastores. These new protocols are designed specifically for the challenges faced by datastores, such as guaranteeing data availability and fault tolerance.
Receiving the honorable mention of the EuroSys Needham PhD Award represents a remarkable praise of my journey in exploring the complex crossroads of systems, architecture, networking, and databases. This award serves as an affirmation of the vitality of interdisciplinary research and "out-of-the-box thinking" — after all, distributed systems demand that.
This journey, though personally rewarding, was not a solitary one. The invaluable guidance and contributions of my mentors and collaborators from the University of Edinburgh and beyond have played an integral role in every step forward. Special thanks to Boris Grot, Vijay Nagarajan, and Vasilis Gavrielatos, who have inspired me and helped me push the boundaries of what's possible.
This award is an enduring motivator for me to continue this path of exploration and cross-pollination of ideas to resolve the next-generation challenges in systems and databases. It's not merely about improving those fields; it's about leveraging our collective knowledge and collaborative efforts to build a better, more innovative future.
The EuroSys Roger Needham PhD award is an annual prize awarded to a PhD student from a European University whose thesis is regarded to be an exceptional, innovative contribution to knowledge in the systems area. “Systems” is interpreted broadly, and includes operating systems, distributed systems, real-time systems, transactional and database systems, language runtimes, embedded systems, computer networks, systems aspects of programming, systems security, etc. The winner receives 2000 EUR.
Criteria for selection are the overall contribution to systems research in terms of scientific originality, scientific significance, scientific rigor, quality of the presentation, and potential for practical application.