Kenneth P. Birman, the N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science, has received the 2009 Tsutomu Kanai Award, which recognizes major contributions to the state of the art in distributed computing systems. The award consists of a crystal model, certificate and $10,000 honorarium.
Birman's research focuses on trustworthy computing in widely distributed systems, where many users interact with the same body of information. The most familiar example is the ATM system. In Birman's work, "trustworthy" means not only safe from attack but also correct and reliable.
His work in this area dates to 1985, and includes the development of software used by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Swiss Exchange, the French Air Traffic Control system, the AEGIS warship and many applications in factory process control and telephony. Every stock quote or trade on the NYSE from 1995 until early 2006 was reported to the overhead trading consoles through software Birman personally implemented. Many network problems occurred, but the design always reconfigured itself automatically and kept the overall system up, Birman reports.
The Tsutomu Kanai Award was established in 1997 by Hitachi Ltd. in honor of Tsutomu Kanai, who served as Hitachi's president for 30 years.