Systems and Networking

Working on problems that are directly relevant to industry, our faculty are advancing the state of the art in cloud computing and systems for big data, software defined networks, wired and datacenter networking, Internet of Things, wearable computing, mobile computing, multimedia systems, security, privacy, health-care engineering systems, and cyber-physical systems.

We work collaboratively with industry partners including Google, Microsoft, AT&T, HP, and many others. Our research has also resulted in the creation of several startup companies.

We produce creative and innovative students who become faculty at top-ranked schools, researchers at prestigious labs, and who join cutting-edge companies. Our courses are not just available to on-campus students, but a selection of them are also offered to off-campus students through Coursera MOOCs with enrollment numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

Strengths and Impact

The Systems and Networking group at UIUC shaped several research fields with particular contributions to Mobile Computing, Internet of Things, Networked Sensing, Cyber-physical Systems, Multimedia Systems, Networking, and Distributed Systems, among others.

A key impact indicator of the group has been its success at technology transition and commercialization over the years. Recently, our faculty and grad students, including Prof. Brighten Godfrey and Prof. Matthew Caesar, pioneered the area of network verification, which applies the concept of formal, mathematical logic comprehensively model an entire network and provably determine if the network meets security and availability goals. This UIUC research directly inspired use of the technology at Microsoft Azure, and related technology has now been deployed by Google, Amazon, and Cisco, among others. It also led to a UIUC spinout startup, Veriflow, led by Godfrey and Caesar which commercialized the technology, growing from three co-founders to a team of over thirty. Veriflow was acquired by VMware in 2019 and its technology was released as part of VMware’s network management platform in Fall 2020. Other prominent startup examples founded by Systems and Networking faculty (and/or their graduate students, or directly commercializing their research) include Pattern Insight led by Prof. Yuanyuan Zhou (for software bug detection and log analysis, acquired by VMware), Adrenaline Mobility (back-end support for mobile apps, acquired by Twitter), Caterva (a real-time social media marketing platform, acquired by Infochimps, started by Hieu Le, a PhD student in Prof. Tarek Abdelzaher’s group), and Compira Labs (commercializing Godfrey’s research in congestion control to improve video delivery). These startups continue the tradition of Systems/Networkingoriented companies emerging from CS at Illinois, such as Netscape, YouTube,, Yelp, PayPal, and others.

In the areas of mobile computing and multimedia computing, the group significantly contributed to the scientific community and research on quality of service, privacy/trust, IoT, energy management for multimodal mobile systems, teleimmersive systems, video 360 systems, networked sensing, and edge AI. Few examples of the various contributions are: Prof Tarek Abdelzaher started the International Conference on Internet of Things Design and Implementation (IoTDI) that has become a top venue for IoT research publications and engaged in multiple leadership and service activities in the field. In the past four years, Prof. Klara Nahrstedt has served on multiple advisory boards (including Washington University St. Louis, Iowa State University, TECoSA, University of Minnesota, and NSF CISE), has achieved Fellow status of both ACM, AAAS, and IEEE, served on the organizing committees for ACM Multimedia, ACM MMSys, ACM NOSSDAV, ACM SEC, and continues to serve as the Director of Coordinated Science Laboratory (CSL), all while authoring numerous papers in highly prestigious venues. Klara also continues to regularly teach her widely-renowned class on Multimedia Systems, which teaches students the technologies behind YouTube, teleimmersion, 360 video systems, AR glasses, video games, and so many other graphical technologies that make up our modern world.

A traditional area of strength in the Systems and Networking group is Real-time and Cyber-Physical Systems, where group members have made many seminal contributions. Former Illinois CS faculty David C. L. Liu invented schedulability analysis algorithms that have become the foundation of modern real-time computing theory. Building on this foundation, Prof. Lui Sha’s contributions to fundamental theory, practice, and standardization of real-time systems received the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal, which is the IEEE’s highest honor for system science and engineering. He also served on the National Academy of Science’s Committee on certifiably dependable software and the NASA Advisory Council. The group’s work was and still is the only analytic real-time scheduling method approved by the FAA for safety critical flight-control applications; their technology was used to fix Mars Pathfinder’s software when the Pathfinder was millions of miles away on Mars and its software kept crashing; they enabled software upgrades to GPS satellites in orbit, leading to continuous improvements in GPS services for navigation; and they allowed International Space Station computers “to budget their time, to choose between a variety of tasks, and decide not only which one to do first but how much time to spend in the process,” wrote Aaron Cohen, Deputy Administrator of NASA. With the recent re-emergence of AI, and its integration with myriads of applications from autonomous systems to ubiquitous computing and network sensing, recent contributions of this group include social sensing, medical best-practice guidance systems (using computational pathophysiology-guided AI in cooperation with Carle Foundation Hospital), safe autonomy using physical model-guided AI, and defense systems. For example, Tarek Abdelzaher leads a $25M Research Alliance on the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT), funded by the Army Research Labs, where he is applying AI and IoT concepts to revolutionize the military capabilities of the US Army. Other contributions include real-time virtual synchrony and the physically asynchronous logically synchronous protocol that won IEEE’s and AIAA’s David Lubkowski memorial award for the Advancement of Digital Avionics.

As a reflection of the growing multidisciplinarity of Computer Science, the Systems and Networking area continues to be highly collaborative, both with other groups in the department and across campus. Collaborations within the department include work with critical areas such as (but not limited to) Formal Verification, AI/ML, Architecture, HCI, Security, and others.

For instance, Prof. Indranil Gupta co-founded the “Center for Just Infrastructures” in 2020 with faculty in CS and the I-School to explore overlap areas between the three pillars of distributed systems, AI, and society. The Center for Just Infrastructures received funding from both industry and campus. The Just Infrastructure seminar series is attracting 500+ attendees over the country, and is receiving national attention. This multidisciplinary nature has also led to significant industry funding obtained by all faculty in the area from companies such as (but not limited to) Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Capital One, Schlumberger, JP Morgan Chase, VMware, Boeing, AT&T, and many others. We will now highlight some other successes in the group. Tarek Abdelzaher has been in the ne ws for his studies on opinion polarization and COVID-19. Matthew Caesar has been in the news for his analyses on Amazon AWS IoT deployments. Robin Kravets’ recent research on proximity networking and IoT has been Systems and Networking funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a Google Focused research grant.

TianyinXu has had his research adopted by several open-source projects such as the Linux kernel, and has won multiple awards including the Facebook Distributed Systems Research Award. DeepakVasisht received the ACMSIGCOMM Doctoral Dissertation award. He has also created a new graduate class on wireless systems for IoT, expanding upon his great experience in applying new wireless technologies to applications such as digital agriculture and healthcare. He has also been publishing seminal p apers on IoT, including his recent acceptance to NSDI (Decimeter-Level Localization with a Single Wifi Access Point), in which he makes yet another fundamentally new insight into how we can leverage wireless physical-layer properties to do new, amazing things.

Brighten Godfrey has received the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and the ACM SIGCOMM Rising Star Award. It is also worth noting that every faculty member in our area has received the NSF CAREER award. Apart from our regular on-campus teaching, the Systems and Networking group teaches several high impact MOOC courses (Massive Open Online Courses) on Coursera. This includes a Cloud Computing Specialization that includes Cloud Applications, Cloud Computing Concepts, Cloud Networking, and a Cloud Capstone. These are offered as full MOOCs, as well as concentrated courses in our MCS Coursera program (both are significant sources of revenue for the department, college, and campus). These courses have had a significant impact on industry, with typically 60-80% of students being full time employees. Each of these courses is massive in size, e.g., the Cloud Computing Concepts course itself has been visited by 650K students since 2015.


Faculty & Affiliate Faculty

Networked Sensing; Intelligent Internet-of-Things (IoT) Applications; IoT and Big Data;  Embedded (Cyber-physical) and Real-Time Systems; Machine Learning for CPS; Crowdsensing/Social Sensing; Social Media Analysis; Social Networks in the Age of Information Overload

Distributed Systems, Wireless Embedded Sensor Networks, Multi-Agent Systems

Wireless Networking, Internet-of-Things (IoT), 5G Networks, Algorithms

Storage and file systems, distributed systems, cloud/datacenter, OS, systems reliability and performance, and ML for systems


Security and Privacy, Distributed Systems 

Design, Analysis, and Verification of Wide-Area Networks and Distributed Systems 

Cloud Computing, Deep Learning Systems, Big Data, Security, Ubiquitous Computing, Micro Kernels, Quantum Computing Systems, Health Data Analytics

Networked, Distributed, and Multirate Hybrid Control Systems

Distributed systems, Storage, File systems, Operating systems, ML for systems, Systems for emerging hardware

Cloud Networking, Network Verification, Machine Learning for Networks, Internet Architecture and Algorithms

Security, Internet Architecture and Protocols, Smartphones and The Internet-of-Things

Distributed Systems, Cloud Computing, Internet-of-Things Distributed Systems, Distributed Machine Learning, Industry Production Systems

Secure Systems and Mobile Communications

Computer Systems, Systems Architecture, Systems Security, Memory and Storage Systems

Systems and AI/ML Reliable and Secure Networks and Systems; Measurement and Modeling; Architectures for Genomic Applications; Machine Learning for Systems

Analytics with Machine Learning, Databases with Machine Learning, Machine Learning Security, Machine Learning + Cryptography 

Networking, Wireless Networking, Mobile Computing, Internet-of-Things 

Machine Learning Systems, Cloud Computing, Networked Systems

Improving Performance and Manageability of Networked Systems

Quality of Service and Quality of Experience, Tele-Immersion, Video 360 Systems, Distributed and Parallel Systems; Real-Time Security in Industry Control Systems, Key Management Protocols, Privacy-Preserving Systems

Security, Privacy, and Information Trust for Computer and Communication Systems 

Database Systems, Big Data Analytics

Applied Cryptography, Computer Security and Secure Distributed Systems

 Wireless Networking, Mobile Computing, Sensing Systems 

Real-Time Systems and Scheduling, Cyberphysical Systems, Medical Systems Engineering 

Wireless Sensing and Communication, Wireless Embedded Systems, Cyber-physical Systems

Mobile Computing, Wireless Networking, Internet-Of-Things, Ubiquitous Computing

Operating Systems, Cloud and Datacenter Systems, System Reliability and Resilience, Large-Scale System Management, Configuration Management, Reliability Engineering

Efficient DL/AI Systems and Algorithms, Parallel Computing and Runtime, Natural Language Processing, AI for Science

Adjunct Faculty

Healthcare Engineering Systems Design, Healthcare Infrastructure 

Real-Time and Embedded Systems, Real-Time Scheduling and Security 

Cloud Computing, Computer-Intensive Data Analytics, Big Data

Distributed Algorithms and Systems, and Wireless Networks

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