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Collective Memory

By MIT News Office

December 13, 2010

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As computing power continues to move from the desktop to portable devices, the nature of communications networks will change radically. A network in which devices are regularly being added and removed, and where the strength of the connections between the devices fluctuates with their movement, requires much different protocols from those that govern relatively stable networks, like the Internet.

In a paper appearing in the December issue of the journal Distributed Computing, a group of researchers, including NEC Professor of Software Science and Engineering Nancy Lynch, describe a long-term project to give unstable networks stable, shared memory.

Begun at MIT in 2001, and largely funded by the National Science Foundation, the project was initially envisioned as a means to preserve vital information for teams of soldiers operating in hostile environments, as, say, Tora Bora, Afghanistan, was at the time. But the work could also have ramifications for sensor networks, networks of mobile devices, peer-to-peer services on the Internet, and the large server farms that host heavily trafficked websites.

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