EU grant to revolutionise the programming of connected computer systems
With an EU grant of about € 2 million, computer science professor Fabrizio Montesi can now significantly advance his dream of creating a new programming system that improves the exchange of data between connected computers. This will result in better operation and security when we log into apps and systems.
Computers constantly exchange information with other computers, and society is deeply dependent on such connected systems so that we have access to applications and shared programs. We all benefit from such exchanges when we use services to transfer money, chat with family, watch a movie, control industrial processes, etc.
To the user, these information exchanges may seem effortless – at least when there are no errors – but appearances are deceiving. In the background, programmers are working more and more frantically to develop software programs that make all our different computer systems exchange the necessary messages by following carefully designed coordination plans.
Professor Fabrizio Montesi from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science calls these plans “choreographies” because the task is similar to that of a choreographer ensuring that all dancers in a troupe take their specific steps at the right time, so no one collides and the dance goes smoothly and unproblematically.
About the project
Title: Choreographies for Distributed Systems: Reasoning, Expressivity, and Development (CHORDS). Financed by a European Research Council Consolidator Grant for Professor Fabrizio Montesi. Amount: Ca. 2 million Euros. Duration: 60 months.
– The problem is that today we don't have effective programming languages for writing computer choreographies. Instead, we manually program the steps that each individual computer should perform and then hope that, when all these computers are connected, these individual steps will integrate smoothly and give rise to the choreography that we had in our heads. It's an incredibly complex task, even for experts, Fabrizio Montesi says.
Things can easily go wrong with this approach. If they do, the cost can range from user irritation to loss of money and private information if sensitive data ends up in the wrong place, or in the worst case, loss of life if errors occur in applications that, for example, monitor hospitalized patients.
The challenge is to eliminate these uncertainties. And for Fabrizio Montesi, the solution lies in developing a precise programming language for writing choreographies that all connected computers can follow.
Will significantly increase security
With the ERC grant, Montesi can continue working on a promising method that he has pioneered and worked on for more than ten years: choreographic programming. With this method, programmers can focus on writing the choreographies that they want computers to follow, and then rely on an automated tool (technically known as a compiler) to generate the right instructions for the individual computers. The aim is to ensure that computer systems collaborate correctly by coordinating with each other over networks without errors. Not only could this make programmers much more efficient at developing connected systems, but also significantly increase security.
– With this grant, we will research the necessary theory and practice for making choreographic programming applicable to real-world distributed systems with a high degree of certainty. Choreographic programming stands on the shoulders of many brilliant ideas developed by the research communities of programming languages, concurrency theory, distributed systems, and software engineering. Working on bringing these ideas to fruition in the crucial context of connected computer systems is very exciting!, explains Fabrizio Montesi.
European Research Council (ERC) was set up by the European Union in 2007, and is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research in Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. In 2023, 308 researchers have received a Consolidator Grant.
Meet the researcher
Fabrizio Montesi is a professor of Computer Science at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, where he leads the Section of Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, and Programming Languages. His research is supported by the European Research Council, the Villum Foundation, the Independent Research Fund Denmark, the Innovation Fund Denmark, and Industriens Fond, Denmark. He is the recipient of several awards for science and innovation in computing.