INGI Seminar

December 04, 2019



Shannon meeting room (a.105) - Maxwell building

Reflections on scalability and consistency

by Pr. Peter Van Roy, UCLouvain

Building scalable systems is a neverending quest, because at each higher scale new problems appear that require new ideas to solve. For the Internet we may eventually reach a final solution, when the Internet’s size approaches its final limit. However, the Internet has been growing exponentially since its inception in 1970, and today that growth continues as strong as ever, manifest in the exponential growth of Internet of Things. So understanding scalability is just as important today as it was in the early days.

In this talk, I will give a personal overview of some important principles that govern scalable systems. Some will be well-known to you, and (I hope) some will be novel. I will first present some unusual phenomena that appear at large scales, such as burstiness (Heisenberg applications), Buridan’s problem, black swans, and fragility due to network effects (giant components, cascades, etc.). Then I will give some ideas on scalable management principles to solve these and other problems, starting with autonomic computing, leading to feedback structures and convergent data management. During the talk I will make connections with well-known tools such as the CAP theorem.

The keynote talk presented at the W-PSDS workshop is available here.

Peter Van Roy is professor of computer science and engineering at UCLouvain. He is currently coordinating the LightKone Horizon 2020 project ( He has a long interest in both programming languages and distributed systems, and this talk builds a bridge between both communities.