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Prof Gordon Blair

Prof of Distributed Systems
Head of Department


Room: C15, Infolab21
Tel: +44 (0) 1524 510303
Fax: +44 (0) 1524 510492
Email: gordon


CSc 253: Distributed Systems (Undergraduate)
CSM 02: Advanced Distributed Systems (Masters)

Research Themes

Networked and Distributed Systems (particular focus on middleware and reflective middleware)

Gordon Blair

Overview of Activities

My research focuses on the area of distributed systems and, more specifically, on the architectures that underpin complex distributed systems applications and services. Along with Geoff Coulson, Francois Taiani and Paul Grace, I run the Next Generation Middleware Group in the department. We are particularly recognised for our work on advanced solutions that go well beyond commercial technologies, for example, our work on augmenting middleware platforms with support for multimedia, real-time, asynchronous mobile communication, and peer-to-peer communication for ad-hoc environments.

Our current focus is the use computational reflection in the design of middleware platforms (reflective middleware) and are widely recognised as having pioneered this technology.

I am particularly proud of my role in the ACM/ IFIP/ Usenix Middleware conference having helped to create the first instance of this conference in 1998 (hosted in the Lake District near Lancaster). I currently chair the steering committee of this conference and I look forward to the event next year in Leuven when we will celebrate our 10th anniversary.

My greatest pleasure is in supervising PhD students and currently have a marvelous team working on topics as diverse as model driven engineering of middleware families, publish-subscribe systems, service discovery frameworks, gossip frameworks and aspect-oriented distributed systems. A common theme is the search for more elegant, configurable and re-configurable solutions in each of these areas (e.g. through the use of reflection). If you are interested in studying at Lancaster for a PhD, please drop me an email. Some possible PhD topics include (but of course are not limited to):

  1. Studying end-to-end distributed systems properties such as interoperability and various non-functional concerns (security, dependability, etc) in complex and highly heterogeneous environments (what I am starting to refer to as systems of systems);
  2. Searching for appropriate software engineering methodologies to support the development of complex distributed systems, e.g. by raising the level of abstraction as saught by Model-Driven Engineering approaches;
  3. Studies of the role of overlays in future middleware platforms including management of multiple, co-existemt overlays;
  4. Investigation of the role of middleware and related distributed system innovations such as wireless sensor networks in the understanding and pro-active management of the natural environment (I am a passionate believer that contemporary computer technology can provide important insights into this critical class of problems).

... and of course anything to do with reflection and distributed systems. I look forward to hearing from you.


Gordon Blair is a Professor of Distributed Systems in the Computing Department at Lancaster University and is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Tromsø in Norway. He is also Head of Department, having served in this role for the past 5 years. He has published over 250 papers in his field and is on the PCs of many major international conferences in middleware and distributed systems. He is chair of the steering committee of the ACM/ IFIP/ Usenix Middleware series of conferences. He has been primarily responsible for a large number of research projects at Lancaster. His current research interests include distributed systems architecture, middleware (including reflective and adaptive middleware), mobile and ubiquitous systems and model-driven engineering techniques applied to adaptive distributed systems. He has recently taken on the role of being co-author of the highly successful book Distributed Systems: Concepts and Design by Coulouris, Dollimore and Kindberg with the 5th edition due to be completed in Summer 2009.

Selected Publications

Grace, P., Hughes, D., Porter, B., Blair, G.S., Coulson, G., Taiani, F., "Experiences with Open Overlays: A Middleware Approach to Network Heterogeneity", To appear in EuroSys’08, Glasgow, March 2008.

Coulson, G., Blair, G.S., Grace, P., Joolia, A., Lee, K., Ueyama, J., Sivaharan, T., "A Generic Component Model for Building Systems Software", to appear in ACM Transactions on Computer Systems, February 2008.

Flores-Cortés, C.A., Blair, G.S., Grace, P, “An Adaptive Middleware to Overcome Service Discovery Heterogeneity in Mobile Ad Hoc Environments”, IEEE Distributed Systems Online, Vol. 8, No. 7, July 2007.

Hughes, D., Greenwood, P., Porter, B., Grace, P., Coulson, G., Blair, G., Taiani, F., Pappenberger, F., Smith, P., and Beven, K. Using Grid technologies to Optimise a Wireless Sensor Network for Flood Management. In Proceedings of the 4th international Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems (SenSys '06), held in Boulder, Colorado, USA, October 31 - November 03, 2006). ACM Press, New York, NY, pp.389-390

Grace, P., Coulson, G., Blair, G.S., Porter, B., “Deep Middleware for the Divergent Grid”, Proceedings of the 6th IFIP/ACM/USENIX International Middleware Conference 2005, Grenoble, France, November 2005.

Grace, P., Coulson, G., Blair, G.S., Mathy, L., Yeung, W.K., Cai, W., Duce, D., Cooper, C., “GridKit: Pluggable Overlay Networks for Grid Computing”, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Distributed Objects and Applications (DOA), Larnaca, Cyprus, October 2004.

Grace, P., Blair, G.S., Samual, S., “ReMMoC: A Reflective Middleware to Support Mobile Client Interoperability”, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Distributed Objects and Applications (DOA’03), Catania, Sicily, November 2003.

Blair, G.S., Coulson, G., Blair, L., Duran-Limon, H., Grace, P., Moreira, R., Parlavantzas, N., “Reflection, Self-Awareness and Self-Healing in Open ORB”, Proceedings of the ACM Sigsoft Workshop on Self-Healing Systems (WOSS’02), November 2002.

Kon, F., Costa, F., Blair, G.S., Campbell, R., “The Case for Reflective Middleware”, CACM, Vol. 45, No. 6, pp 33-38, 2002.

Blair, G.S., G. Coulson, P. Robin, and M. Papathomas, “An Architecture for Next Generation Middleware”, Proc. IFIP International Conference on Distributed Systems Platforms and Open Distributed Processing (Middleware'98), Lake District, Editors: Davies, N., Raymond, K., Seitz, J., Springer, 1998.

Full publication list for Gordon Blair