Ant Rowstron,
Distinguished Engineer,
Microsoft Research,
Cambridge, UK


My full publication list (and on Google Scholar)


I am a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK, and I lead a team looking at future technologies for the cloud. Many of the projects we run in the team are focused on creating and exploring new optical-based technologies for the cloud across storage, networking and compute. Examples of the sort of projects the lab does are Project Silica, which is looking at how to store data in Fused Silica (basically glass) as a replacement for tape for long term archival storage.

As a systems researcher, I have spent most of my career working at the intersection of Storage, Networking, and Distributed Systems. More recently I have been learning a lot about Optical Systems. During my career, I have been fortunate enough to work several areas, including structured overlays or Distributed Hash Tables (DHTs), wireless routing protocols and even Robot Football (RoboCup’98). I worked with Peter Druschel on one of the original DHTs, called Pastry (Middleware’01 and awarded their 10 year test of time award in 2011) and on one of the first highly distributed key-value stores (PAST SOSP’01).

In 2016 I was awarded the ACM SIGOPS Mark Weiser Award and then in 2021 the ACM EuroSys Lifetime Achievement Award. In May of 2010 I was elected as a Fellow of the British Computer Society and in Sept 2020 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Here are some images of data being stored in glass starting in 2017 through to 2019. To learn more about how we write the data look at this animation:


I have been fascinated by Robotics since I took part in RoboCup’98. With Silica we had the chance to explore robotics for storage systems (see below) and in May 2023 with the progress in deep learning and foundational models it seemed like a good time to revisit robotics in more depth. So, I have started forming a robotics group in Microsoft Research Cambridge with an emphasis on how we can develop dexterous and skilled robotics to help make data centers self-maintaining. We have some incredible people in the team, and building on the Silica library robotics we have some awesome robots coming soon. The team got its first ICRA paper accepted in 2024 about the Silica Library!

Sounds exciting? We are always looking for really talented people who would like to join the team, especially people who are interested in internships or post-doc positions, from a wide range of backgrounds.

Recent publications:

I try to select research projects that I believe will have an impact in the real world. Often it turns out my belief is misplaced, but occasionally not! The work on distributed systems has had some internal impact; Pastry directly contributed to both the Windows DRT API and the related Windows PNRP API (the former even includes a leaf set). A company licensed some of our P2P work around Pastry and SplitStream (SOSP’03). BrachCache was inspired by Squirrel (PODC’02). Since moving to focus more on storage; IOFlow (SOSP’13) resulted in the SMB Bandwidth Limiting feature in Windows Server 2012 R2, and also inspired the end-to-end Storage QoS feature in Windows Server 2016 (see blog). Pelican(OSDI’14) moved to Azure.

Short bio:

Since May 1999 I have been working at Microsoft Research in the UK, where today I am a Distinguished Engineer. My research interests are broad, covering the spectrum of systems, distributed systems, storage and networking. I received an MEng degree in Computer Systems and Software Engineering in 1993 and a DPhil degree in Computer Science in 1997 both from the University of York, UK. After completing my DPhil studies, I joined Cambridge University in November 1996, initially as a Research Associate in the Computer Laboratory and then as a Senior Research Associate in the Engineering Department, Cambridge. During this time, I was a consultant for the Olivetti and Oracle Research Laboratory (ORL) (which became the AT&T Research Cambridge in 1998).