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Jon Howell

Jon Howell


I am a distributed systems researcher. I am presently applying formal verification to practical systems.

I recently developed a new model of client execution called Embassies that shifts responsibility for application security and management from end users to application vendors. I also helped create Flat Datacenter Storage, a scalable high performance data center file system that claimed the 2012 Minute Sort record.

I co-developed Asirra and InkblotPasswords. I also co-developed the MapCruncher tool for importing map content onto the web; it now ships from Microsoft.

My first project at MSR was the Farsite distributed filesystem. I focused on practical techniques for managing concurrency in distributed systems programming, including using formal specification to design the distributed directory service for FARSITE, which must be simultaneously scalable, consistent, and Byzantine-fault-isolating [OSDI2006], using atomic actions as a practical technique to simplify the management of local concurrency, and clarifying the relationship between cooperative threads and event-driven code [Usenix2002].

After grad school, I spent a year at Consystant, a startup company in Kirkland, studying and modeling language semantics.

I developed my dissertation at Dartmouth working with David Kotz on distributed naming and security. I extended a formal system to model the transitive delegations of the Simple Public Key Infrastructure (SPKI). The result is a system that can reason about authorization across administrative boundaries, without a centralized notion of a domain that contains a list of people or principals. I also spent far too much time in the robotics lab, diddling with hardware and mapping algorithms.

Jon enjoys flying airplanes, bicycling, and playing puzzlehunt.


USENIX ATC 2014 program committee.
SOSP 2013 program committee.
USENIX ATC 2013 program committee.
ICDCS 2013 program committe, P2P-OS-Middleware track chair.
OSDI 2012 program committee.
USENIX ATC 2012 program committee.
WebApps 2011 program committee.
PSI ETA 2010 program committee.
OSDI 2010 program committee.
WebApps 2010 program committee.
LSAP 2009 workshop program committee, colocated with HPDC 2009.
ICDCS 2009 program committee, Operating Systems and Middleware track.
FAST 2005 program committee.

Refereed Publications




    • Edmund B. Nightingale, Jeremy Elson, Jinliang Fan, Owen Hofmann, Jon Howell, and Yutaka Suzue, Flat Datacenter Storage, in 10th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation (OSDI 2012), USENIX, October 2012


    • John R. Douceur, Jon Howell, Bryan Parno, Michael Walfish, and Xi Xiong, The Web Interface Should Be Radically Refactored, in Tenth ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks (HotNets-X), ACM SIGCOMM, November 2011
    • John R. Douceur, Jon Howell, Bryan Parno, and Michael Walfish, Refactoring the Web Interface, in SOSP 2011 Poster Session, 24 October 2011
    • Donald E. Porter, Silas Boyd-Wickizer, Jon Howell, Reuben Olinsky, and Galen Hunt, Rethinking the Library OS from the Top Down, in Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS), Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., March 2011







    Unrefereed Publications