Featured Alum: Massimo Maresca

Back to Gazette, Fall 2014

Massimo MarescaProfessor Massimo Maresca of the University of Genoa, an ICSI alum as well as the head of the Scientific Office of the Italian Consulate in San Francisco, is supervising a new project at ICSI related to end-user computing, big data, and the Internet of things.

Professor Maresca first visited ICSI’s Realization Group, which developed massively parallel systems, as a postdoc in the early 1990s. He soon switched his attention to distributed networks, an area of research led at ICSI by Professor Domenico Ferrari in the Networking Group. Professor Maresca went on to work at the University of Genoa, first as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor, while continuing to visit ICSI. In 1995, he moved to the University of Padua, maintaining close ties with collaborators in Genoa. These collaborations led to the foundation of the Research Center on Computer Platform Engineering (CIPI).

The center’s research focuses on platforms – standard sets of functionalities for performing services. Specifically, the center identifies and characterizes platforms, and researches how to connect them so that they can cooperate to perform complex tasks.

The project at ICSI is on the service composition paradigm for distributed applications. This paradigm is a way of visualizing and organizing the relationships among services that, together, make up a larger service composed by simple basic functionalities (i.e., web APIs) belonging to different domains such as social networks, e-commerce, news, and government data. Researchers from the center will visit ICSI to study how this paradigm can be applied to two areas: the Internet of Things (IoT), a network in which most physical objects we interact with on a daily basis will one day be connected, and Big Data. Michele Stecca, a CIPI researcher, will spend his postdoctoral fellowship working at ICSI on different components of the project.

For CIPI’s work on the IoT, each real object within this network is represented in the network as an abstract representation, or an agent. This agent corresponds to a small, less complex service in a composite service network. In this way, the internet of things is visualized as a composite service. The problem is how to orchestrate these agents.

A past project sponsored by the European Commission, for example, applied these ideas to smart cars, considering different functions and pieces of the car – the brakes, the gas, etc. – as agents, or atomic services and linking them together in a network, or composite service.

While at ICSI, Stecca will be working in the other domain, Big Data. The center has launched a start-up, SpreadsheetSpace, that links spreadsheets together in a network, creating a larger composite spreadsheet.

“When you receive data analyses, you sometimes want to change something to understand the data,” said Professor Maresca. By linking the data sources, SpreadsheetSpace allows a regular end-user to do that. This is a part of end-user computing. “You don’t have to be a programmer to use Excel. Most people are able to do something in Excel,” he said. “We address these people.” When applied to the business domain, “our potential is huge because the world uses Excel.”

In Italy, Professor Maresca is an avid sailor, spending two weeks each summer off the coast of Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera.