Belgium - 2014
For her seminal work on distributed hash tables, a fundamental contribution to the design of large-scale distributed and decentralized computing systems.
While still a Ph.D. student, Sylvia Ratnasamy was first author of the 2001 paper "A Scalable, Content-Addressable Network", one of the most cited papers in the recent history of computer science. This seminal paper was one of the first to introduce a scalable design for distributed hash tables or DHTs, a critical element in many modern distributed and peer-to-peer computing systems. DHTs enable a data object to be located quickly anywhere in a network without requiring a central registry. Her follow-on papers demonstrated improved scalability for peer-to-peer applications such as file-sharing; provided a clear analysis of the most effective connection topologies for DHTs; and introduced OpenDHT, a public DHT service that made it possible for many other groups to build distributed systems easily. DHTs not only provide an elegant abstraction that is supported by sound theory, but also had a profound practical influence on how modern distributed systems are built. They and their derivatives have found application in products ranging from operating systems to large, decentralized file sharing utilities to support infrastructures of networked marketplaces and social networking.