Portrait of Austin Donnelly

Austin Donnelly

Principal Research Software Development Engineer


Austin Donnelly is a Principal Research Software Development Engineer (RSDE) in the Systems group at Microsoft Research, Cambridge. He obtained his B.A. in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge in 1996, and went on to complete his Ph.D. there in 2002.

From 2010 to 2013 he was the Director of Studies in Computer Science for Pembroke College, Cambridge, responsible for admission of new undergraduates, arranging small-group teaching, and monitoring academic progress. He is currently working on Pelican, a project looking at cold storage for datacentre environments.  He is co-author of a paper describing the system which was published in OSDI 2014.

In the past, he worked on security enhancements in the C/C++ compiler and C runtime libraries, which eventually shipped via Windows Update in November 2014.
He has worked on CamCube – a novel topology for data center networks which makes writing efficient key-based services faster and cheaper.

He has also worked on datacenter and enterprise storage, from both a power-management and performance perspective. He helped build a system which can redirect disk writes across a network to allow disks to be spun down for extended periods of time, saving power.

He has worked on the Seaweed project, building a query infrastructure designed for very large datasets distributed over thousands to millions of machines. An example such dataset might result from the Anemone project, where he implemented an endsystem-based network management system. Previously, he supported work using Magpie for performance analysis of the distributed system underlying MSN Search.

Before this he worked on Ethernet topology discovery, using the hosts in the network to send probe packets and record where they arrive, to infer where switches, hubs, wireless access points and wireless bridges might be. This feature shipped in the Networking Control Panel of Windows Vista (and newer).

His thesis dissertation (titled Resource Control in Network Elements) described how operating systems for active network nodes could provide quality of service guarantees to sandboxed code in an efficient manner, and demonstrated this by way of a prototype implementation.

While a Ph.D. student, Austin worked on the Pegasus II project as part of a team porting the Nemesis research OS to Intel-based PCs. He helped design and implemented the network stack for Nemesis. Austin spent three months working for AT&T’s Florham Park research labs in New Jersey, implementing a standards-compliant video streaming and caching system.


Rack-scale Computing

Established: January 1, 2013

  New hardware technology such as systems- and networks-on-chip (SOCs and NOCs), switchless network fabrics, silicon photonics, and RDMA, are redefining the landscape of data center computing, enabling interconnecting thousands of cores at high speed at the scale of today's racks. We refer to this new class of hardware as rack-scale computers (RSCs) because the rack is increasingly replacing the individual server as the basic building block of modern data centers. Early examples of RSCs…

Project Pelican

Established: November 1, 2012

Pelican: A building block for exascale cold data storage Pelican aims to store infrequently accessed (cold) data as inexpensively as possible. The amount of data stored is growing at a huge rate, but not all of it is “hot,” i.e. frequently accessed.  There is little reason to store cold data in the same high-performance, high-cost systems as hot data. Our goal was to design a storage system—called Pelican—specifically to take advantage of the needs of…

Network Inference

Established: February 25, 2004

Network Inference is a research project theme in which the network end-system (i.e., the computer) infers properties about the behaviour of the network and other end-systems in order to get a better experience. Such improvements might be better sharing or improved latency through reduced queueing and the like. Past Contributors Laurent Massoulie