photo of Ken Birman

Ken Birman

N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science
Computer Science
Gates Hall, Room 435


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 to support use of machine-learning in cloud computing environments that track sensor data and need to take actions under tight time pressure.  One concrete example involves 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 Derecho, is available on for open-source download.  Beyond the smart power grid, Derecho has applications to other kinds of smart infrastructures (such as highways, homes, cities), and can be used to create cloud storage infrastructures that use machine intelligence to decide what to store, how to preprocess it, and what forms of indexing to run now in anticipation of future requests.

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.


Research Interests

Teaching Interests

Professor Birman teaches number of courses.  In 2018, he is teaching CS-5412, an MEng-level course on Cloud Computing and CS-6410, a PhD class in distributed systems. 


Selected Publications

  • Anderson, D, S. Sahasrabuddhe, A. Bose, C. Hauser, T. Gkountouvas, W. Song, Y. Liao, K. Birman, E. Litinov, X. Luo, F. Zhang, A. Darvishi, G. Stefopoulos, A. Ettlinger. "Cloud-based Data Exchange Infrastructure for Wide Area Monitoring of Bulk Electric Power Grids." To appear in the General Meeting of the International Council on Large Electrical Systems (CIGRE), Paris, France, pp 1-10, August 26-31, 2018.
  • Jha, Sagar, Jonathan Behrens, Theo Gkountouvas, Matthew Milano, Weija Song, Edward Tremel, Sydney Zink, Kenneth P. Birman, Robbert van Renesse, "Building Smart Memories and Cloud Services with Derecho." Submitted for publication 2017. Preprint available at , September.
  • Song, Weija, Theo Gkountouvas, Kenneth Paul Birman. 2016. "The Freeze Frame File System." Paper presented at ACM Symposium on Cloud Computing (SoCC'16), October 5-7, 2016, ACM, New York, NY pp. 307-320. DOI:
  • 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.

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
  • Appointed N. Rama Rao Professor of Computer Science 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