Skip to main content

in this section

Kenneth Paul Birman

  • Kenneth Paul Birman
  • Dept: Computer Science
  • Title: N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science
  • Address: 435 Gates Hall
  • Phone: 607 255-9199
  • return to list


Ken Birman joined Cornell after receiving his PhD degree from U.C. Berkeley in Computer Science. He currently holds the N. Rama Rao Chair in Computer Science. A researcher in distributed systems, Professor Birman focuses on high assurance applications.  His past work was used in settings that include the New York Stock Exchange, French Air Traffic Control System and US Navy AEGIS.  More recent systems transitioned to companies like IBM, Microsoft, Cisco and Amazon.  Professor Birman has been the Editor in Chief of the ACM Transactions on Computer Systems and has chaired or participated in program committees for numerous conferences.  He has also run a number of studies on behalf of the Air Force, NSF, DARPA and DOE, aimed at understanding how best to exploit cloud computing in sensitive settings.

At present Professor Birman is working on a new software platform for reliable cloud computing and applying it to problems such as managing the smart power grid, a topic he is exploring in collaboration with the New England ISO, the New York Power Authority, and the New York ISO.  He has several recent publications on this work, and one of the main components, a system he calls Isis2, has already been downloaded more than 4000 times from

Professor Birman is a member of the Computer Science graduate field, and plays an active role in advising Cornell NYC Tech post-docs through the Jacobs' Institute's Runway program.


Teaching Interests

Professor Birman teaches number of courses, including Cornell's second class in computing, CS2110.  He created our very popular CS5412 Cloud Computing graduate course, and also teaches CS6410, a PhD class in distributed systems.  In the spring of 2015 he will be offering a new course in which CS undergraduates will integrate the different ideas they have learned at Cornell into a single "capstone" project.

Selected Publications

  • Huang, Qi, Kenneth Paul Birman, Robbert van Renesse, Wyatt Lloyd, Sanjeev Kumar, Harry Li. 2013. "An Analysis of Facebook Photo Caching." Paper presented at The 24th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles, November.
  • Freedman, Daniel A., Tudor Marian, Kenneth Paul Birman, Hakim Weatherspoon. 2010. "Exact temporal characterization of 10 Gbps optical wide-area network." Melbourne, Australia November.
  • Marand, Parisa J., Samuel Benz, Fernando Pedone, Kenneth Paul Birman. 2014. "Practical Experience Report:The Performance of Paxos in the Cloud." Nara October (4th Quarter/Autumn).
  • Princehouse, Lonnie, Rakesh Chenchu, Zhefu Jiang, Kenneth Paul Birman, Nate Foster, Robert Soule. 2014. "MiCA: A Compositional Architecture for Gossip Protocols." July (3rd Quarter/Summer).
  • Teo, Zhiyuan, Vera Kutsenko, Robbert van Renesse, Kenneth Paul Birman. 2014. "IronStack: performance, stability and security for power grid data networks." Atlanta, GA June.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • IEEE Technical Committee on Distributed Processing Outstanding Achievement Award 2009
  • Research Visionary Award (Cisco Corporation) 2008
  • ACM SIGOPS Hall of Fame award 2013
  • IEEE Senior Member (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 2012
  • IEEE Tsutomu Kanai Award 2009



  • BS (Computer & Information Science), Columbia University, 1978
  • MS (Computer & Information Science), University of California-Berkeley, 1979
  • Ph D (Computer & Information Science), University of California- Berkeley, 1981