John Feminella on Impossibility of Distributed Consensus with One Faulty Process

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We're happy to host John Feminella (, technologist and advisor, presenting on Impossibility of Distributed Consensus with One Faulty Process ( by Michael J. Fischer, Nancy A. Lynch and Michael S. Paterson.


If you think it's hard to get humans to agree on something, wait until you see how computers work! Computer scientists call this problem consensus, and when the computers involved are in an asynchronous environment, it's distributed consensus.

For about a decade prior to this paper, computer scientists had been debating whether distributed consensus was solvable in real environments. At the time, it was known that synchronous consensus, a weaker version of distributed consensus where everyone acts at the same time, was possible — and even better, it was resilient to crashed or unreliable processes. But was the same true for distributed consensus? Can you design a distributed consensus algorithm that is resilient to these kinds of failures?

As the paper's title ("Impossibility of Distributed Consensus with One Faulty Process") might suggest, the answer is "no, it isn't possible". This turns out to have sweeping implications for the reliability of distributed systems, as we'll see in our talk. See you there!


John Feminella ( (@jxxf ( is an avid technologist, occasional public speaker, and curiosity advocate. He serves as an advisor to Pivotal (, where he works on helping enterprises transform the way they write, operate, and deploy software. He's also the cofounder of a tiny analytics monitoring startup named UpHex (

John lives in Charlottesville, VA and likes meta-jokes, milkshakes, and referring to himself in the third person in speaker bios.


Doors open at 6:30 pm; the presentations will begin right around 7:00 pm; and, yes, there will be refreshments of all kinds and pizza.

You'll have to check-in with security with your Name/ID. Definitely sign-up if you’re going to attend–unfortunately people whose names aren’t entered into the security system in advance won’t be allowed in.

After John's presentation, we will open up the floor to discussion and questions.

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