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Summer 2014 interns at HP Labs – Yiting Xia


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist


Yiting_web.jpgYiting Xia grew up in the North East of China in the city of Shenyang and majored in telecoms engineering at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Now entering the fourth year of her Ph.D. program in computer science at Rice University, Xia plans to focus her thesis research on optical networking. “I’m interested in how you integrate optical technologies into the data center to accelerate transmission,” she says. When Xia has spare time, she enjoys reading, dancing, and adding to her already-impressive cooking skills.


HP: Is what you are pursuing this summer related to your Ph.D. work?


It is. Here, I’m also working on integrating optical technologies into datacenters. My project is about how to use inexpensive optical switches in data centers to facilitate run time configuration of the wiring, which should give us lower deployment costs, better fault tolerance, and higher traffic flows.


HP: How has it been going?


We have an optical network architecture already built here at HP Labs and my work has been focusing on the algorithms that help run it. I’m looking at wiring algorithms that will help the network better use these inexpensive switches. So I’ve proposed several algorithms and evaluated them using simulation software.


HP: Any results?


It’s not done yet – I need to more thoroughly evaluate the system performance - but it looks pretty impressive. Our simulations show that we should be able to reduce the network’s bandwidth requirement by about half. If that’s true, we can use some very cheap commodity Ethernet switches to speed up connections within today’s datacenters. 


HP: Where do you go next with that?


We’d now like to try out the system on real hardware. That would be in collaboration with researchers in HP Networking. If that works well, we could potentially even build this into an HP product.


HP: Will your research here connect back to your Ph.D.?


Yes, I’m hoping my research here can be a part of my thesis.


HP: What in particular has struck you about working at HP Labs?


I’ve not worked in an internship before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. One thing I’ve really liked has been the research environment. It’s quite different from the university, where you are looking at more theoretical problems. Here, you target very practical problems, and are very close to the businesses. I really like that. Also, people here are very welcoming – you can drop by to ask anyone a question – and the other interns are a lot of fun to be with. We’ve become really good friends over the summer.


HP: What are you thinking you might do after your Ph.D.?


It’s still a long way from graduation, but I’m thinking either of working in an industrial lab like this or going straight into industry. The project here is really interesting to me because so practical. Solving real problems is very attractive – you feel your work is valuable and it’s recognized by users. 


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