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Good Mojo from OSDI ’10

Well, the VMware folks who attended OSDI ’10 last week are finally coming down from their high from the experience and I got the chance to catch up with some of our team who were in attendance. Here’s what they had to say….

Harvey Tuch, Sr. Member of Technical Staff on our Mobile Virtualization Platform team, attended the SSV (Systems Software Verification) workshop which he said “provided a fantastic selection of high quality, relevant and timely systems papers and talks.” OSDI ’10 highlights for Harvey included the TaintDroid work studying information flow on Android, accountable VMs providing software attestation for remote execution via record-replay and the several papers in the kernels session. Harvey also hosted a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session on mobile virtualization. The BoF was very well attended and many participants hung out well after the allotted time so they could chat further about the prospects of virtualization on mobile phones.

Carl Waldspurger, Principal Engineer and a Program Committee member for OSDI this year, was pleased to see that the OSDI ’10 program and talks demonstrated strong interest in virtualization, including papers on security (Accountable VMs), I/O scheduling (mClock), time keeping (RADclock), and an award paper on nested hypervisors (Turtles). Carl also really enjoyed the DataCollider paper from MSR, which he said “used x86 watchpoints in a simple but clever way to find actual kernel data races in Win7 efficiently.”.

OSDI continues to be the premier event for systems researchers to attend. Several things stood out this year for Irfan Ahmad, a Staff Engineer in our Resource and Policy Management team. “The PC chairs accommodated a larger number of papers which was a bold move.” and he felt that the quality of the presented work didn’t seem to have been affected because of this increase in papers. Irfan went on to say “The conference had a better than average representation from industry researchers compared to academics. The trending around this needs to be studied to make sure that students continue to find the venue approachable.” Further, he pointed out that “We as a community need to continue to make sure we don’t trend away from giving controversial ideas the light of day, even if their implementation are not as complete.”. I couldn’t agree more, Irfan! We have to push ourselves to let the crazy ideas out in the open for discussion. That is often where the best ideas for new innovation come from!

From what I gathered from all the VMware attendees, it was good to see that OSDI continues to be very inclusive of ideas that even a few years ago might not have made it to a systems conference. For example, Irfan mentioned that this year there were papers bordering on DB research. He says “Including such papers definitely keeps the systems community abreast of a wider array of work. But it also means that PCs might continue to get pushed further out of their core area of expertise. Herein lies caution for future PCs to ensure that at least two expert PC members are included from each area and also to be able to say ‘no’ to potentially good papers that are outside the scope of the conference or when the PC doesn’t have enough expertise to evaluate properly.” Good point, Irfan!

I’m sure most attendees at the conference would agree with one of our OSDI paper authors, Ajay Gulati (Sr. MTS), that OSDI’10 was “a great place to meet others researchers who are so passionate about building computer systems and making them more efficient, reliable, accountable and predictable.” VMware is always eager to support the systems community and the further development and use of virtualization. Our participation in and sponsorship of OSDI is just another example of our commitment to academia and research in these areas.


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