Reusable Software Infrastructure for Stream Processing
Candidate: Robert Soule
Advisor: Robert Grimm


Developers increasingly use streaming languages to write their data processing applications. While a variety of streaming languages exist, each targeting a particular application domain, they are all similar in that they represent a program as a graph of streams (i.e. sequences of data items) and operators (i.e. data transformers). They are also similar in that they must process large volumes of data with high throughput. To meet this requirement, compilers of streaming languages must provide a variety of streaming-specific optimizations, including automatic parallelization. Traditionally, when many languages share a set of optimizations, language implementors translate the source languages into a common representation called an intermediate language (IL). Because optimizations can modify the IL directly, they can be re-used by all of the source languages, reducing the overall engineering effort. However, traditional ILs and their associated optimizations target single-machine, single-process programs. In contrast, the kinds of optimizations that compilers must perform in the streaming domain are quite different, and often involve reasoning across multiple machines. Consequently, existing ILs are not suited to streaming languages.

This thesis addresses the problem of how to provide a reusable infrastructure for stream processing languages. Central to the approach is the design of an intermediate language specifically for streaming languages and optimizations. The hypothesis is that an intermediate language designed to meet the requirements of stream processing can assure implementation correctness; reduce overall implementation effort; and serve as a common substrate for critical optimizations. In evidence, this thesis provides the following contributions: (1) a catalog of common streaming optimizations that helps define the requirements of a streaming IL; (2) a calculus that enables reasoning about the correctness of source language translation and streaming optimizations; and (3) an intermediate language that preserves the semantics of the calculus, while addressing the implementation issues omitted from the calculus This work significantly reduces the effort it takes to develop stream processing languages, and jump-starts innovation in language and optimization design.