Alan’s Profile

My name is Alan Southall and I hold MS and BS degrees in computer science. I have worked in the areas of compiler construction, telecommunications, network management, peer-to-peer networking, cloud computing, fault tolerant system, Web2.0, smart metering, meter data management systems, smart grid and massively distributed systems. My biggest accomplishment to-date was independently inventing pure Distributed Hash Tables together with Steffen Rusitschka at Siemens Corporate Technology, Munich in early 2000. We wrote our patent application for the concept in the same year and this was later registered at the German patent office on September 6th 2001. Being both experienced software engineers and entrepreneurial types, we went on to build the Resource Management Framework (RMF) which is a massively scalable key-value storage system extremely similar to Amazon’s Dynamo and brought the platform to product in the form of the Siemens HiPath BizIP enterprise telephony system which won the Teletalk Best of CeBIT in 2006. The first paper we wrote describing the RMF was published on July 15th 2002 and we followed this up in this paper published at Net.ObjectDays on November 3rd 2002 together with Thomas Friese who worked with us on some of the first RMF concepts. All subsequent work related to RMF was based on the system designed and built by Steffen and myself. Another major system that we developed using the RMF was a project called PeerThings. This application was an internet scale Peer-to-Peer telephony system very much like Skype and was supported as both a PC based software client and embedded in a SIP capable DSL router. A video of this system being demonstrated by Steffen Rusitschka as CeBIT in 2006 can be found here.

Alan Hanging Out in CA After the 2007 UC Berkeley RAD Lab Winter Retreat

One of the best non DHT peer-to-peer protocols which we devised over a period of eight years of work on the topic was Multi-Layer Gnutella which we published at the IPTPS Sixth International Workshop on Peer-to-Peer Systems in 2007. All-in-all these were very exciting times for us at Siemens, but things move on. However, during my time as leader of the Autonomic and Peer-to-Peer Computing Group, I was able to apply for over 40 patents in the field of peer-to-peer networking and Web2.0, several of which are still pending and eight are registered:

1. 20070288642 Method for Initializing a Peer-to-Peer Data Network 12-13-2007
2. 20080259939 Method for distributing resources to network nodes in a decentralized data network 10-23-2008
3. 20080320163 Method for Transmitting a Message, Network Node and Network 12-25-2008
4. 20080313317 Network Management Using Peer-to-Peer Protocol 12-18-2008
5. 20080261521 Monitoring Condition of Network with Distributed Components 10-23-2008
6. 20080281807 Search Engine – comprising search indices for entities wherein a tag reputation of a tag which classifies an entity is updated by said search engine 11-13-2008
7. 20090028165 Method for Operating a Decentralized Data Network 01-29-2009
8. 20100023606 Method for Providing Composed Services in a Peer-To-Peer Network 01-28-2010

Through my visit to Schloss Dagstuhl Peer-to-Peer Seminar in 2006 and UC Berkeley, I was lucky enough to meet most of the peer-to-peer protocol pioneers such as Anthony Joseph (Tapestry), Ion Stoica (Chord), Peter Druschel (Pastry) and Sylvia Ratnasamy (CAN). Representing Siemens, I presented our peer-to-peer and Web2.0 work as a keynote talk at ARCS 2007 (ETH Zurich), as a special guest speaker at KiVS 2007 (University of Bern) and at the IBC Conference 2007 where I additionally presented the work being done by Siemens on the BBC’s iPlayer.

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