Stop Press: I graduated! I'll no longer be at MIT, or actively working on the research projects below. Feel free to drop me an email with any questions (see address below).


My name is James.

I'm a PhD student at MIT.

I work in distributed systems.

James Cowling
MIT CSAIL, 32 Vassar St, 32-G908, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA

Figure 1. A photo of James.


I'm currently working on a distributed storage system for my PhD thesis, targeted at applications that benefit from strong consistency guarantees. The main contribution of this work is avoiding locking and two-phase commit for certain classes of distributed transactions.

My previous work focused on fault tolerance and reliability, particularly with respect to efficient Byzantine fault tolerance.

My CV is available here.


I work part-time as a student counselor and mediator, as part of the EECS REFS program. Drop me a line if you're an MIT EECS grad student and want to chat.

Selected Publications

Viewstamped Replication Revisited
(a concrete presentation of VR, a "Paxos-style" state machine replication protocol)
Barbara Liskov and James Cowling.
MIT technical report MIT-CSAIL-TR-2012-021, July 2012.

Granola: Low-Overhead Distributed Transaction Coordination
paper | slides
James Cowling and Barbara Liskov.
To appear: In Proc. of the 2012 USENIX Annual Technical Conference. Boston, MA, USA. June 2012.

Low-Overhead Distributed Transaction Coordination
James Cowling.
PhD Thesis. MIT CSAIL. Cambridge, MA, USA. May 2012.

Abstractions for Usable Information Flow in Aeolus
Winnie Cheng, Dan R. K. Ports, David Schultz, Victoria Popic, Aaron Blankstein, James Cowling, Dorothy Curtis, Liuba Shrira and Barbara Liskov.
To appear: In Proc. of the 2012 USENIX Annual Technical Conference. Boston, MA, USA. June 2012.

Census: Location-Aware Membership Management for Large-Scale Distributed Systems
James Cowling, Dan R. K. Ports, Barbara Liskov, Raluca Ada Popa and Abhijeet Gaikwad.
In Proc. of the 2009 USENIX Annual Technical Conference. San Diego, CA, USA. June 2009.

Tolerating Latency in Replicated State Machines
Benjamin Wester, James Cowling, Edmund B. Nightingale, Peter M. Chen, Jason Flinn and Barbara Liskov.
In Proc. of the Sixth USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI '09). Boston, MA, USA. April 2009.

MapJAX: Data Structure Abstractions for Asynchronous Web Applications
Daniel Myers, Jennifer Carlisle, James Cowling and Barbara Liskov.
In Proc. of the 2007 USENIX Annual Technical Conference. Santa Clara, CA, USA. June 2007.

HQ Replication
James Cowling.
Masters Thesis. MIT CSAIL. Cambridge, MA, USA. May 2007.

HQ Replication: A Hybrid Quorum Protocol for Byzantine Fault Tolerance
James Cowling, Daniel Myers, Barbara Liskov, Rodrigo Rodrigues and Liuba Shrira.
In Proc. of the Seventh Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI '06). Seattle, WA, USA. November 2006.

Dynamic Location Management in Heterogeneous Cellular Networks
James Cowling and Bjorn Landfeldt.
Honours Thesis, The University of Sydney. Sydney, NSW, Australia. November 2004.

See also: PMG publications database.

Other Stuff

I had a radio show for three years on WMBR, playing electro/techno/beepy-music. Previous shows are still available for streaming online.

Some of my film competition entries to the annual CSAIL Olympics:

I also have a blog I intended to put various bits of helpful tech information on, but never got around to making much progress on: James Can Spel