Student Projects

On this page you will find ideas and suggestions for some student projects. If you cannot find a suitable project here, you are welcome to tell us your own suggestions.

1. Modular Bootmanager

Possible mentors:
Stephen Soltesz
Marc Fiuczynski

Every machine in the PlanetLab network boots from a read-only boot image (CD-ROM or read-only USB stick). The first step of the BootImage is to configure the machine's network and download a second-stage script called the BootManager (BM) which is responsible for configuring the other parts of the hardware, verifying that the machine has minimal resources (amount of RAM, size of disk, speed of CPU), and installing a bootstrap file system onto the disk to prepare our production environment.

This process does not always work. It is very time consuming for admins to visit the node and manually diagnose the problem. As well, there is no means of applying solutions learned in one location to all future sites. There is currently no framework for installing extra components into BM without modifying the code directly.

The BM run-level is a controlled environment, with complete access to the machine. If the BootImage can download BM, then BM should be able to fetch and run other modules also.

Extend BM to support modules. These extension would enhance BM's functionality without changing BM itself. Adding such a module would be simpler than modifying BM.

Useful modules:
* Runlevel agent
* OpenVPN client
* Additional hardware and environment diagnostics to detect bad disks, mis-configured networks (DNS, time servers, firewalls, etc.)
* Other monitoring agents like snmpd or zabbix.
* Help with the recovery of common problems (corrupted installation, out-of-date installations)

You would take an active role in defining how BM would be modularized and thinking through the operations aspects of keeping the modules easy to manage over time; i.e. how to distinguish a core set (default), a set that are installed only for certain machines (special groups), and those meant only for certain times (errors).  The current implementation is in python and we would prefer that it remain so.

Working Groups

Working Groups

The PlanetLab community has self-organized into a collection of working groups, each focused on a different aspect of PlanetLab's architecture. The working groups primarily communicate via mailing lists, as well as at periodic face-to-face meetings. 

Architecture Working Group

This working group focuses on the architectural evolution of PlanetLab, including both the OS running on each node and infrastructure services running globally.

Planetary-Scale Commercial Services Working Group

This working group explores the evolution of PlanetLab into an open, federated, ubiquitous platform for hosting commercially relevant services.

Security Notice

One of the main purposes of PlanetLab is to enable research into new Internet technology. Frequently, researchers will deploy technologies on PlanetLab that use the Internet in new ways. As a result, PlanetLab network traffic is sometimes viewed as anomalous by automated Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs), which may trigger alerts. If an alert is interpreted as a security threat by a system administrator or IDS, a complaint may be lodged against your site or other PlanetLab hosting sites.

Recent security incidents, and their resolution, are listed below:

PlanetLab Developer's Meeting

May 13-14, 2008 (Princeton University)


  • John Hartman
  • Scott Baker
  • Thierry Parmentelat
  • Justin Cappos
  • David Johnson
  • Xavier Cuvellier
  • Fred Kuhns
  • Yogesh Mundada
  • Mary Fernandez
  • Trevor Jim
  • Aki Nakao
  • Ozaki Ryota
  • Scott Kirkpatrick
  • Daniel Hokka Zakrisson
  • Larry Peterson
  • Faiyaz Ahmed
  • Andy Bavier
  • Sapan Bhatia
  • Marc Fiuczynski
  • Scott Karlin
  • Tony Mack
  • Reid Moran
  • CK Ong
  • Stephen Soltesz


Private PlanetLabs

  • AT&T

  • EverLab - one of the first Private PlanetLabs, operating 50 nodes in 8 sites in Europe


  • OneLab (PlanetLab-EU) - European part of the PlanetLab platform, that operates in federation with PLC

  • Polish Telecom - a Content Distribution Network testbed inside their commercial network has been built to perform tests of existing P2P related technologies for Video on Demand distribution of large files with QoS mechanisms

PlanetLab Bibliography

The following is a partial bibliography of research enabled by PlanetLab. The vast majority of the papers report experiments run on PlanetLab: some measure today's Internet, some measure new service or protocol designs, some describe new research methodologies, and some report on deployment studies of novel network services that support real client workloads. A few of the papers (those marked with an asterisk) report on the design of PlanetLab itself (or present designs for potential PlanetLab-like facilities).


In addition to serving as a research platform, PlanetLab is also being used by courses that give students first-hand experience with broad-coverage services. The following links point to course web pages for classes and seminars that have used PlanetLab. If you have a course page that you would like to have included on this list, please send e-mail to

University of Pittsburgh

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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