Coding-Based System Primitives for Airborne Cloud Computing

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Coding-Based System Primitives for Airborne Cloud Computing

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Title: Coding-Based System Primitives for Airborne Cloud Computing
Author: Lin, Chit-Kwan
Citation: Lin, Chit-Kwan. 2011. Coding-Based System Primitives for Airborne Cloud Computing. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The recent proliferation of sensors in inhospitable environments such as disaster or battle zones has not been matched by in situ data processing capabilities due to a lack of computing infrastructure in the field. We envision a solution based on small, low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can deploy elastically-scalable computing infrastructure anywhere, at any time. This airborne compute cloud—essentially, micro-data centers hosted on UAVs—would communicate with terrestrial assets over a bandwidth-constrained wireless network with variable, unpredictable link qualities. Achieving high performance over this ground-to-air mobile radio channel thus requires making full and efficient use of every single transmission opportunity. To this end, this dissertation presents two system primitives that improve throughput and reduce network overhead by using recent distributed coding methods to exploit natural properties of the airborne environment (i.e., antenna beam diversity and anomaly sparsity). We first built and deployed an UAV wireless networking testbed and used it to characterize the ground-to-UAV wireless channel. Our flight experiments revealed that antenna beam diversity from using multiple SISO radios boosts reception range and aggregate throughput. This observation led us to develop our first primitive: ground-to-UAV bulk data transport. We designed and implemented FlowCode, a reliable link layer for uplink data transport that uses network coding to harness antenna beam diversity gains. Via flight experiments, we show that FlowCode can boost reception range and TCP throughput as much as 4.5-fold. Our second primitive permits low-overhead cloud status monitoring. We designed CloudSense, a network switch that compresses cloud status streams in-network via compressive sensing. CloudSense is particularly useful for anomaly detection tasks requiring global relative comparisons (e.g., MapReduce straggler detection) and can achieve up to 16.3-fold compression as well as early detection of the worst anomalies. Our efforts have also shed light on the close relationship between network coding and compressive sensing. Thus, we offer FlowCode and CloudSense not only as first steps toward the airborne compute cloud, but also as exemplars of two classes of applications—approximation intolerant and tolerant—to which network coding and compressive sensing should be judiciously and selectively applied.
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