Gossiping for a Good Cause

December 4, 2010
Amrita Schools of Engineering

Gossiping Computers?

Introduced to Amrita students by Dr. Maarten van Steen, Chair of the Computer Science Department at Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam, who was recently at their campus, these computers may well become the norm in the future.

Dr. Maarten van Steen Talk

“As computers are becoming increasingly pervasive, we are heading toward computer systems composed of many, very small devices, each being a full-fledged computing device,” Dr. Maarten explained.

“This leads to a simple problem: how are we going to let have devices collaborate?”

As a possible solution, Dr. Maarten introduced the concept of gossiping computers and protocols. He discussed what could be possible with local computing power available to make information dissemination more effective.

“The gossiping protocols are extremely robust when it comes to spreading data among a huge collection of devices,” he shared. “This allows the devices to make local decisions based on the information they have.”

Peppered with examples that illustrated how such computers self-organized into groups, constructed nice geometrical overlays or even resulted in a fully-distributed wireless news service, the one-hour talk brought home many key points to the Amrita M.Tech. students who attended.

Dr. Maarten van Steen Talk

After a short break, the students returned again, this time for the second one-hour talk on checks and balances needed in gossiping computers.

Dr. Maarten explained that since gossiping offered an attractive combination of simplicity, scalability and robustness, the previous decade has seen their popularity soar.

“Now the need for truly scalable, decentralized algorithms is becoming apparent,” he emphasized, beginning the discussion on where significant challenges lay.

“Both talks were very interesting and informative,” responded Sai Priya, an M.Tech. (Computer Science) student. “I now understand gossiping computers and their applications.”

Sai Priya and her classmates will have the opportunity to enroll in a new dual-degree program that Amrita and VU will jointly offer at the start of the next academic year. In this program, after students complete their first year of studies at Amrita in India, they will become eligible to spend their second year in Netherlands at VU.

Dr. Maarten van Steen Talk

Students will earn masters’ degrees from both universities.

“We are looking forward to having the first batch of students from Amrita next year,” stated Dr. Maarten. “I feel there is much we can learn from Amrita, how to focus on inter-disciplinary research to solve societal problems.”

“At the same time, there is much that the Amrita students will gain at VU – the opportunity to participate in world-class research and publish papers. It will be a win-win situation for all.”

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