Aishwarya Ganesan receives NSF Career Award to bridge performance and reliability in fault-tolerant systems

3/14/2024 Iishi Patel

Written by Iishi Patel

Aishwarya Ganesan
Aishwarya Ganesan

Department of Computer Science Professor Aishwarya Ganesan at The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign received an esteemed NSF Career Award for her proposal, Storage-Aware Fault Tolerance. This award is one of the National Science Foundation's most prestigious accolades. It supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. It recognizes Ganesan's groundbreaking work in distributed systems and provides her with the resources and platform to further her research.

With a background rooted in rigorous academic and practical research, including a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a postdoctoral fellowship at VMware Research, Ganesan’s research is dedicated to efficient and reliable fault-tolerant systems for data centers.

Having fault tolerance in a data center is like keeping extra copies of each book in different parts of a library. That way, if one area gets flooded or loses power, another area still has the books, allowing everyone to keep getting the information they need. Ganesan’s research addresses critical challenges in fault-tolerant storage systems, vital for the seamless operation of large-scale and critical services in modern data centers. These systems guarantee reliable data access for essential services like search engines, social networking platforms, e-commerce, and health care.

Typically, a traditional storage system will perform 10 to 20 times better than systems with fault tolerance. Ganesan aims to develop systems that guarantee fault tolerance and match the performance of non-fault-tolerant systems, thereby addressing a critical trade-off that has long challenged system designers. She says, “The focus is to systematically revisit and innovate upon the paradigms of fault tolerance that underpin today's data centers.”

In addition to her research, Ganesan is deeply committed to educational efforts, having developed a comprehensive course on building fault-tolerant and consistent systems for data centers. Her course — CS 598FTS: Fault-tolerant and Consistent Data Center Systems — provides students with a deep dive into the fundamentals of distributed systems, engaging them in hands-on research projects and exposing them to case studies from industry. Ganesan also plans to develop interactive tools to help users understand complex distributed system protocols, allowing them to visualize protocols in action and interact with them to test their understanding of different scenarios, including system failures. This approach aims to make the subject more accessible to those new to distributed systems or outside the field, enhancing learning and exploration opportunities.

While Ganesan encourages young researchers to deeply comprehend existing systems, she believes that hands-on involvement is crucial for innovation in the distributed systems domain. Additionally, she highlights her department's invaluable support and resources, from mentorship to career workshops, underscoring the collaborative and supportive environment that has been instrumental in her journey. This nurturing academic setting facilitated her first NSF proposal and fostered a culture of innovation and shared success within the community.

Share this story

This story was published March 14, 2024.