This is a pun on the saying

There is plenty of room at the bottom

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2021-08-17 17:30:09

This is a pun on the saying "there is always room at the top". This is also the title of a famous Feynman lecture from 1959, where he made a case for nanotechnology. 

In this post, I will try to argue that there is plenty of room at the bottom for distributed algorithms. Most work on distributed algorithms are done at a high-level abstraction plane. These high level solutions do not transfer well to the implementation level, and this opens a lot of space to explore at the implementation level.

But this is not just an opportunistic argument. It is imperative to target the implementation level with our distributed algorithms work, otherwise they remain as theoretical, unused, inapplicable. 

What is succinct at the high level could be very hard to implement and get right at the low level. Paxos seems simple, but even after several papers on it, it was difficult to implement. In fact the whole point of Raft was to show how to implement Paxos while limiting its generality. 

What seems to be a harmless assumption could be the source of a liveness bug that brings down the deployment. Assuming nodes are strongly connected, Raft does not have a liveness problem. And this does not seem like a big deal at the design level. But when that assumption is violated in deployment, you have a 6 hour outage impacting production.

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