October 28, 2019

Distributed Systems Research request for proposals

This Research Award is now closed

About

Modern data centers operate with hundreds of software systems, running in millions of containers, serving billions of requests per second [Hahn LISA ’18]. At such a large scale, high operational flexibility, debuggability, and high reliability are paramount.

Unfortunately, at such a large scale, three key challenges are at odds with achieving high operational flexibility, debuggability, and high reliability:

  1. Interdependence. The programs running in modern data centers make up larger workloads, and failures in one program can have a ripple effect, causing failures in other programs or in the entire workload.
  2. Distribution. The workloads in modern data centers are distributed across many servers – and even across the globe – and server failures in one location can have widespread implications across the site.
  3. Heterogeneous hardware. Modern data centers are composed of a diverse mix of hardware, from commodity devices to special-purpose accelerators, and servers are configured with different compute, memory, and storage profiles. In such an environment, fail-slow behavior, where only a single job makes forward progress but becomes slow, can collapse cluster performance [Gunawi+ FAST ’18].

At Facebook, we are performing forward-looking research into the area of distributed systems, applying key techniques from the field at Facebook’s scale and sharing our designs, implementations, insights, and data with the community. In recent years, we’ve released our work on Distributed Configuration Management [Tang+ SOSP ’15], Large-Scale Production Load Testing [Veeraraghavan+ OSDI ’16], End-to-End Performance Tracing [Kaldor+ SOSP ’17], and more [Huang+ SOSP ’17, Veeraraghavan+ OSDI ’18, Annamalai+ OSDI ’18].

To understand the future challenges that have yet to emerge, it is important that Facebook builds a strong collaboration pipeline with key experts in academia. Therefore, Facebook is pleased to invite faculty and graduate students to respond to this year’s call for research proposals pertaining to distributed systems. We anticipate giving eight awards, each around $50,000 as an unrestricted gift to the proposer’s host university.

Award Recipients

Adam Belay

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

RFP: Distributed Systems 2020 - 2020

Andrea Arpaci-Dusseau

University of Wisconsin-Madison

RFP: Distributed Systems 2020 - 2020

Arvind Krishnamurthy

University of Washington

RFP: Distributed Systems 2020 - 2020

Patrick Eugster

Università della Svizzera italiana (Lugano)

RFP: Distributed Systems 2020 - 2020

Rashmi Vinayak

Carnegie Mellon University

RFP: Distributed Systems 2020 - 2020

Ryan Stutsman

University of Utah

RFP: Distributed Systems 2020 - 2020

Winners have been announced

Application Dates

  • Launch Date October 28, 2019
  • Deadline December 6, 2019 at 9:00 p.m. PST
  • Winners Announced February 28, 2020

Areas of Interest

While all proposals are welcome, we are particularly interested in those that address fundamental challenges that arise in distributed systems operating at an extremely large scale. Example topics include:

  • Distributed performance tracing and analysis
  • Efficient shard mapping and placement (on the order of billions of shards)
  • Request load balancing (e.g., for HTTP and RPC traffic)
  • Fault tolerance (with a focus on power and network fault domains)
  • Large-scale configuration management, monitoring, and deployment
  • Efficient use of hardware resources via software codesign

Applicants should submit a proposal detailing what contribution their research is expected to make, how the broader research community will benefit from the work, a project timeline, and an overview of how the proposed funding will be used.

Requirements

Proposals should include

  • A summary of the project (1-2 pages) explaining the area of focus, a description of techniques, any relevant prior work, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes
  • A draft budget description (1 page) including an approximate cost of the award and an explanation of how funds would be spent
  • Curriculum vitae for each project participant
  • Organization details; this will include tax information and administrative contact details

Eligibility

  • Awards must comply with applicable U.S. and international laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Applicants must be current full-time faculty at an accredited academic institution that awards research degrees to PhD students.
  • Applicants must be the principal investigator on any resulting award.

Additional information

Winners will be invited to a Facebook event at one of our data centers for a tour and summit discussing the winning proposals and an opportunity for networking with Facebook engineers. The event will be sometime in spring 2020, but the exact date and location have yet to be determined. Facebook will pay for the winners’ travel and accommodations to attend (one representative per winning proposal).

Frequently Asked Questions

Most of the RFP awards are an unrestricted gift. Because of its nature, salary/headcount could be included as part of the budget presented for the RFP. Since the award/gift is paid to the university, they will be able to allocate the funds to that winning project and have the freedom to use as they need. All Facebook teams are different and have different expectations concerning deliverables, timing, etc. Long story short – yes, money for salary/headcount can be included. It’s up to the reviewing team to determine if the percentage spend is reasonable and how that relates to the decision if the project is a winner or not.

We are flexible, but ideally proposals submitted are single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt font.

Research awards are given year-round and funding years/duration can vary by proposal.

Yes, award funds can be used to cover a researcher’s salary.

Budgets can vary by institution and geography, but overall research funds ideally cover the following: graduate or post-graduate students’ employment/tuition; other research costs (e.g., equipment, laptops, incidental costs); travel associated with the research (conferences, workshops, summits, etc.); overhead for research gifts is limited to 5%.

One person will need to be the primary PI (i.e., the submitter that will receive all email notifications); however, you’ll be given the opportunity to list collaborators/co-PIs in the submission form. Please note in your budget breakdown how the funds should be dispersed amongst PIs.

Terms & Conditions

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to this solicitation, including interpretation of these Terms and awards at any time. All items apply unless otherwise stated in each RFP. Please Read These Terms Carefully Before Proceeding.

  • By submitting this proposal, you are authorizing Facebook to evaluate the proposal for a potential award, and you agree to the terms herein.
  • You agree that Facebook will not be required to treat any part of the proposal as confidential or protected by copyright, and may use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce and distribute all or a portion of your proposal in any manner for the sole purposes of administering the website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • You agree and acknowledge that personal data submitted with the proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of you and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Facebook for the purposes of administering the website and evaluating the contents of the proposal.
  • You acknowledge that neither party is obligated to enter into any business transaction as a result of the proposal submission, Facebook is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal, and neither party acquires any intellectual property rights as a result of submitting the proposal.
  • Any feedback you provide to Facebook in the proposal regarding its products or services will not be treated as confidential or protected by copyright, and Facebook is free to use such feedback on an unrestricted basis with no compensation to you.
  • Applicants represent and warrant that they have authority to submit a proposal in connection with this RFP and grant the rights set forth herein on behalf of their organization.

EVENT ATTENDANCE

If Facebook is offering event attendance and related travel to grant recipients, the specific travel benefits, travel dates and additional details (collectively, “Travel Benefits”) will be provided by Facebook to the grant recipient. Any Travel Benefits are subject to the terms set forth herein and at Sponsor’s sole discretion. Event dates and associated travel dates will be determined in Facebook’s sole discretion. Facebook will contact all event attendees to coordinate Travel Benefits. Any taxes (federal, state, provincial, and local) and other costs and expenses associated with the Travel Benefits will be the sole responsibility of the academic institution and/or attendees, as applicable.

It is each event attendee’s sole responsibility to comply with all travel requirements, which may include, without limitation, presenting a valid passport, visa and/or other necessary identification (including photograph) at the time of travel. Facebook is not liable for any missed events, opportunities or expenses incurred as a consequence of flight cancellation/delay or ground transportation delay. Attendee(s) may be required to provide a credit card at time of hotel check-in to cover hotel incidentals. By accepting Travel Benefits, all event attendees agrees to maintain their behavior in accordance with all applicable laws and generally accepted social practices in connection with participation in any event-related activity. Each event attendee understands and agrees that Facebook or travel providers have the right, in their sole discretion, to remove an attendee from any travel or event activity at any time if the attendee’s behavior at any point is uncooperative, disruptive, or may or does cause damage to person, property, or the reputation of Facebook or otherwise violates the policies of the travel providers, and in such a case, the attendee will still be solely responsible for all taxes and other expenses related to the travel benefits. EVENT ATTENDEES AGREE THAT THE RELEASED PARTIES ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE IN ANY WAY FOR ANY ADDITIONAL EXPENSES, OMISSIONS, DELAYS, OR RE-ROUTING RESULTING FROM ANY ACTS OF ANY GOVERNMENT OR AUTHORITY.

Facebook will not replace any lost, mutilated, or stolen Travel Benefits or any benefits that are undeliverable or do not reach the attendee because of an incorrect or changed address or contact information. If an attendee does not accept or use all Travel Benefits, the unaccepted or unused part of the benefits will be forfeited and Facebook will have no further obligation with respect to that benefit. No transfers, substitutions, or cash redemptions will be made, except at Facebook’s sole discretion. Event attendees are strictly prohibited from selling, auctioning, trading, or otherwise transferring any part of the Travel Benefits, except with Facebook’s permission, which may be granted or withheld for any reason in its sole discretion. Facebook reserves the right to substitute any Travel Benefit or portion thereof with another benefit or portion thereof of equal or greater value for any reason, including unavailability of the stated benefit.

License

By submitting an RFP, except where prohibited by law, each applicant grants to the Released Parties (defined below) (and their agents, successors, and assigns) the irrevocable, transferable, sublicensable, absolute right and permission to use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce, and distribute applicants’ RFP proposal (with or without reference to each person associated with the RFP) in perpetuity on the internet in any language, throughout the world, for the limited purposes of administering and promoting the RFP, Facebook’s Research program, and publicizing the gift recipients.

General Rules

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to this RFP, including interpretation of these Terms and award of gifts at any time. Facebook shall have no liability for organizations’ use of any gifts provided hereunder, including any use of gifts not in connection with the RFP.

All grant funds or other benefits provided by Facebook in connection with this RFP shall be used only in accordance with applicable laws and shall not be used in any way, directly or indirectly, to facilitate any act that would constitute bribery or an illegal kickback, an illegal campaign contribution, or would otherwise violate any applicable anti-corruption or political activities law. Gifts may not be transferred (a) to any individual, entity, or country prohibited by any applicable U.S. or non-U.S. export controls and trade sanctions; (b) to anyone on U.S. or non-U.S. government restricted parties lists; or (c) for any purpose prohibited by applicable export controls and trade sanctions, including nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, or missile technology applications without the required government authorizations. You acknowledge that Facebook is subject to U.S. economic restrictions and trade sanctions. As such, Facebook reserves the right to deny distribution of any gift when required by applicable law. The applicants agree to comply with all applicable laws and regulations during throughout the RFP and while using any funds that may be received by Facebook.

Applicants agree not to accept an award made by Facebook if (a) it would interfere with their official duties, (b) it does not comply with applicable regulations, policies, and rules of applicant’s institution, or applicable laws, regulations, rules, judgments, and orders of any court or governmental authority; or (c) it conflicts with any other obligation the applicant or applicant’s institution have to any other party. Applicant also shall not perform any official action to improperly benefit Facebook.

Applicants acknowledge that they may not use Facebook’s logos or trademarks without prior written approval. All requests for use of the Facebook name or trademark must be submitted via the online form available at www.facebookbrand.com/requests.

LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

EACH PARTICIPATING INDIVIDUAL AND ORGANIZATION AND EACH OF ITS AGENTS AND REPRESENTATIVES, AGREES TO RELEASE AND HOLD HARMLESS FACEBOOK, INC. AND ITS SUBSIDIARY COMPANIES, AFFILIATES, DIVISIONS, FRANCHISEES, REPRESENTATIVES, CONSULTANTS, SUB-CONTRACTORS, SUPPLIERS, DISTRIBUTORS, LEGAL COUNSEL, ADVERTISING, PUBLIC RELATIONS, PROMOTIONAL, FULFILLMENT AND MARKETING AGENCIES, AND RFP PARTNERS (COLLECTIVELY, THE “RELEASED PARTIES”) FOR ANY LIABILITY WHATSOEVER ASSOCIATED WITH PARTICIPATION IN THIS RFP.

Disclaimers

Released Parties are not responsible and/or liable for any of the following: any delivery failure or other error in RFP-related correspondence, transmission or materials; technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the RFP or the processing of applications; or any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from applicant’s participation in the RFP. Without limiting any other provision of these Terms, no Released Party is responsible or liable for any injury or damage to the persons or property of applicants or any third party based on use by such party of any RFP submission made available as part of this RFP. Without limiting any other provision in these Terms, the Released Parties are not responsible or liable to any applicant for any inability to proceed with the RFP or failure to provide a gift or any part thereof, in the event that any of the RFP activities or Facebook’s operations or activities are affected, as determined by Facebook, by any cause or event beyond the sole and reasonable control of Facebook.

Disputes/Governing Law

Except where prohibited by law, any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action between an applicant and any Released Party arising out of or connected with this RFP or these Terms must be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action or legal action on behalf of any group. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will an applicant be permitted or entitled to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental or consequential damages, or any other damages, including attorneys’ fees, other than the applicant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (if any), not to exceed ten dollars ($10) and each applicant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased.
Except where prohibited by law, this RFP and any dispute arising under these Terms or related to these Terms or the RFP (whether for breach of contract, tortious conduct, or otherwise) will be governed by the internal laws of the State of California, U.S.A., without giving effect to its conflicts of law or choice of law principles or rules that would cause the application of the laws of any other jurisdiction. Except where prohibited by law, any legal actions, suits or proceedings related to this RFP (whether for breach of contract, tortious conduct, or otherwise) will be brought exclusively in the state or federal courts located in or having jurisdiction over San Mateo County, California, U.S.A., and each applicant accepts and submits to the personal jurisdiction of those courts with respect to any legal actions, suits or proceedings arising out of or related to this RFP.