Emily Green on The Part-Time Parliament (Paxos)

This is a past event

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The speaker:

Emily was until recently a Backend Engineer in SoundCloud's Data Team. Before that she was a Haskell developer for a Swedish e-signing startup, and before that she was a developer for a variety of financial institutions. She lives in London, and likes gardening and hanging out with her cat Albertina.

The Paper:

Leslie Lamport. 1998. The Part Time Parliament


The Paxos algorithm is a consensus algorithm that’s considered one of the most important in distributed computing. Cassandra uses it for transactions (http://www.datastax.com/dev/blog/lightweight-transactions-in-cassandra-2-0), zookeeper (https://cwiki.apache.org/confluence/display/ZOOKEEPER/Zab+vs.+Paxos)'s Zab is based on it. This was the original paper that introduced it.

The Part Time Parliament paper is utterly charming and very funny (when you’re in on the joke). It’s written in the style of an archeologist uncovering the workings of the parliament of the ancient civilisation of the island of Paxos. The implications for computer science are left until the end of the paper.

The paper had a bumpy road to recognition, originally written in 1989, it was initially quite misunderstood - we’re going to look a bit more at its history.

We will be discussing the nature of the parliament of ancient Paxos, and how this relates to distributed systems. We’ll then look at second section of the paper that discusses how the ancient Paxos synod worked. The synod algorithm sits at the heart of the Paxos algorithm, so understanding this is a key piece of understanding the whole thing.

We won’t be looking at the rest of the paper, and Paxos algorithm, because it’s very long and complicated, and honestly I don’t understand it (yet) - Paxos is notoriously hard to understand and implement. But hopefully everyone will enjoy finding out about this creative and fun paper, and will come out with a solid understanding at least part of the algorithm.

As it is at Skills Matter, please sign up with them also https://skillsmatter.com/meetups/7399-emily-green-on-the-part-time-parliament-paxos