Department of Computer Science

Avatar: Mobile Distributed Computing in the Cloud

Overview

Smart phones and tablets have become the personal devices of choice for most people. Users are generally willing to share and exploit this data within communities defined by friendship, similar interests, or geography for new and rich experiences. This scenario lends itself naturally to mobile distributed computing which enables direct collaboration among mobile users. However, mobile distributed applications are currently difficult to deploy because mobile devices are not always reachable and have limited resources such as energy and bandwidth. The goal of this research is to make the promise of mobile distributed computing a reality for our society to enable new beneficial applications in areas such as healthcare, safety, and social interaction. We will investigate how cloud computing can support mobile distributed computing, enabling users' mobile devices to provide a large spectrum of mobile computing applications.

Our research will answer three main questions:

  1. How to program mobile distributed apps that use cloud resources?
  2. What cloud protocols and architecture optimizations are necessary to support these apps given the large scale and heterogeneous workloads expected from mobile users?
  3. What privacy mechanisms do we need to protect users' data from the cloud providers while ensuring apps' usability and ease of development?
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We propose a system architecture in which a mobile user has one or more mobile devices and an "avatar" hosted in the cloud. An avatar is a per-user software entity instantiated as a virtual machine in the cloud which acts as a surrogate for the user mobile devices, thus reducing the workload, storage resources, and bandwidth needed on the mobiles. Avatars make mobile devices smarter because they have a larger storage capacity, compute power, bandwidth, and availability than mobiles. Implicitly, they save energy on the mobiles and improve the response time for many apps. The avatars are available 24x7, even when their mobile devices are offline because of poor connectivity or simply turned off.



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