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UMass Amherst Professor Receives Computer Networking Industry Award

AMHERST — Professor Ramesh Sitaraman of UMass Amherst’s College of Information and Computer Sciences is one of a large team of scientists and engineers who have been honored by the Assoc. for Computing Machinery with its SIGCOMM Networking Systems Award for work that “has had a significant impact on the world of computer networking,” the association said.

Sitaraman and colleagues are credited with building the Akamai content-delivery network (CDN), the world’s first major CDN and now one of the largest ever built, and for pioneering the concept of internet content delivery. The Akamai CDN currently consists of 240,000 servers in 130 countries and serves about one-quarter of all internet traffic.

CDNs deliver a majority of internet traffic today, including much of the world’s e-commerce, news, media, entertainment, social networks, and online applications. Two decades after their creation, Sitaraman noted, CDNs have completely transformed the internet as we know it while simultaneously spawning a business sector valued at tens of billions of dollars.

“CDNs may be the most important technical breakthrough you have never heard of,” he noted. “That’s because CDNs work unnoticed, under the cover of your browser, video player, or application. But CDNs are what make your web pages load faster, make your videos play continuously without freezes, and enable billions of people around the world to watch a live soccer game on the internet.”

CDN creators accomplished this using algorithms that continuously monitor the state of the global internet, balance server load, map users to the nearest server, cache content requested by the user, and reliably transport content to billions of users.

Sitaraman, who helped build Akamai and left academia to translate his research into practice there, observed that “the future looks even more exciting since much foundational scientific research is needed to make the internet much more secure and more sustainable than what it is today. CDNs are a good example of how academic research can fundamentally change the world.”

He now directs the CICS Laboratory for Internet-Scale Distributed Systems and is a member of its Theoretical Computer Science group. His research involves all aspects of internet-scale distributed systems, including algorithms, architectures, performance, and energy efficiency. He is currently focused on the next-generation internet. Sitaraman received also 2014 College Outstanding Teacher Award.