Scalable Blockchain and Energy Systems

Speaker: Srinivasan Keshav (University of Waterloo, Canada)

Date: 31 July 2017

Time: 14:00-15:00

Venue: The Alan Turing Institute

Email: Turing Events to register your place or watch live online.


Imagine if the  energy generated by every solar panel could be cost-effectively and reliably certified to be green, and that this green credit could be traded in a global market. This would greatly accelerate distributed solar generation. Although, in theory, tamper-proof smart meters and blockchains can be used to achieve this goal, a critical problem with the consensus protocols underlying blockchains is that they do not scale well. As the number of participants trying to achieve consensus increases, increasing network traffic from topology-oblivious broadcasts can quickly overwhelm the network, or, when using centralized consensus protocols, overwhelm the central coordinator. Thus, achieving strong consensus is typically restricted to a handful of participants, or systems must resort to weaker forms of consensus, such as those using proof of work. To address this problem, we propose Canopus, a highly-parallel consensus protocol that exploits modern data center network topology, parallelism, and consensus semantics to achieve scalability. Our key insight is to make network communication patterns topology-aware. In our prototype implementation, Canopus achieves rates as high as 5m linearizable transactions/second over 27 nodes distributed across 7 datacenters.

(Joint work with Sajjad Rizvi and Bernard Wong at the University of Waterloo)

S. Keshav received a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1991. He was subsequently a member of technical staff at Bell Labs and, from 1996 to 1999, an Associate Professor at Cornell. In 1999 he left academia to co-found Ensim Corporation and GreenBorder Technologies Inc. He has been at the University of Waterloo since 2003, holding a Canada Research Chair and subsequently the Cisco Chair in Smart Grid. He has won several awards including a Sloan Fellowship, the Sakrison Prize, two Test of Time awards from ACM SIGCOMM, and Best Paper awards at both ACM SIGCOMM and ACM MOBICOM. He is the author of two graduate textbooks on computer networking.