Featured Alum: Eddie Kohler

Professor Eddie Kohler is ICSI's featured alum for this issue. Kohler received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT in 2000, and then joined ICSI as a postdoc in the Networking group. Much of his early work focused on DCCP, the Datagram Congestion Control Protocol. Kohler's work on the congestion control mechanisms led him to be the project's main architect during his three–year stay at ICSI, which was initially engineered by Sally Floyd and Mark Handley. While the TCP protocol is standard for situations where all data must be received, DCCP addresses the problem with unreliable transfer in time–sensitive settings like streaming media or Internet telephony. DCCP was first implemented in a Linux kernel release in 2005.

In 2004, Kohler accepted a position as Assistant Professor at UCLA's Computer Science Department. While there, he was instrumental in the development of Asbestos. Asbestos is a prototype operating system designed to limit and contain the effects of exploitable software flaws, such as private data security. Asbestos is designed to allow one process to act on behalf of multiple users without compromising the private data of any individual user. The way that Asbestos labels and processes information is also embodied in the related Asbestos web server, which correspondingly isolates individual users' data among Web application traffic.

Kohler's longest–running project, though, is the Click modular router. The design of Click comprised Kohler's thesis work at MIT, and the implementation of Click has been a focus of his work ever since. Click is used in the framework for XORP, the eXtensible Open Router Platform which was conceived of at ICSI. XORP has the potential to do to computer–networking equipment what Linux has done to operating systems.

Kohler has recently returned to the Bay Area for another new utilization of Click. While Google and Earthlink have received press in recent years by promising to bring free wireless Internet to San Francisco, these plans have not yet seen fruition. This is where Meraki, the start–up where Kohler recently began working, comes in. They are a grassroots wireless networking company that is currently distributing repeater nodes to broaden their free wireless network currently active in the city's Mission District. Their work has been acknowledged by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other major news organizations.

Kohler himself has been the recipient of some very favorable attention as well. Receiving a PECASE (Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers) from NSF in 2007 led him to be described as "wonderfully creative and talented" by UCLA Engineering Dean Vijay K. Dhir. Kohler's work on Asbestos was recognized with Technology Review's TR35 Young Innovator award for 2006, and he also received a 2007 Sloan Research Fellowship.

Kohler's work overseeing the implementation of DCCP often brings him back to ICSI to work with Sally Floyd, 2007 winner of the prestigious SIGCOMM award. Floyd, a long–time collaborator, says that "working with Eddie has been lovely because he brings insight and energy to the collaboration." Networking group leader Scott Shenker describes him as "one of those rare individuals who follows his own internal compass, setting trends rather than following them. As a result, Eddie's research doesn't just add to our body of knowledge, it also significantly broadens our perspective.  He is a gift to our field."

Kohler reflects fondly on his three–year stay at ICSI and enjoys his return visits because "it provides a home for people who are great researchers to come and do work that doesn't necessarily fit into academia."