Portrait of Austin Donnelly

Austin Donnelly

Senior Principal Research Engineer Lead


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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab), Cambridge, responsible for admission of new undergraduates, arranging small-group teaching, and monitoring academic progress.

He is currently working on Silica (opens in new tab), a project to store archive-grade data in glass.  The data is written using femto-second lasers and read out using microscopy techniques.  He is responsible for the system software support, working closely with the optical physics team.

Previously, he worked on Pelican (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) – 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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) project as part of a team porting the Nemesis (opens in new tab) 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.