David P. Reed Biography

David P Reed photo

Dr. David P. Reed enjoys architecting the information space in which people, groups and organizations interact. He is well-known as a pioneer in the design and construction of the Internet protocols, distributed data storage, and PC software systems and applications.

He is co-inventor of the end-to-end argument, often called the fundamental architectural principle of the Internet.

Recently, he discovered Reed’s Law, a scaling law for group-forming network architectures. Along with Metcalfe’s Law, Reed’s Law has significant implications for large-scale network business models.

His current areas of personal research are focused on densely scalable, mobile, and robust RF network architectures and highly decentralized systems architectures.

Currently, he is employed as Chief Scientist of TidalScale, Inc., where he co-developed the TidalScale Software Defined Server, a software product that integrates multiple hardware servers into a single integrated virtual server, which can be reconfigured to add and remove memory, processors, storage, and networking hardware dynamically. His key contributions focus on the decentralized hyperkernel architecture structure and protocols, maximizing performance,availablility, and reconfigurability.

Research Career

From 1966 to 1982, from 1992 to 1996, and from 2001 to 2013, Dr. Reed dedicated his efforts to research in computer system and communication systems engineering. This activity spanned a number of academic and non-academic institutions and corporate research labs

From 2001-2009, he worked with Alan Kay’s Viewpoints Research Institute creating a new, fully distributed real-time software collaborationtplatform called Croquet with co-creators David A. Smith and Andreas Raab.

He has also been a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Laboratory, and in 2002 was appointed Adjunct Professor of Media Arts and Sciences there. While at the MIT Media Laboratory he co-led the Viral Communications Research Group with Andrew Lippman, focusing his research on scalable computational radio networking technologies and what was then called “The Third Cloud” – framework for computing and information sharing centered around people as they move through the world, complementing “Cloud computing”, the emerging framework based on Internet accessible platforms and services. He also cofounded the MIT Communications Futures Program (CFP), an interdisciplinary industry-sponsoredresearch activity spanning MIT’s CSAIL, Sloan School and Media Lab, focused on the evolving future communications industries, their business architectures and technology architectures..From 2003-2009,he was also a part-time HP Fellow at HP Laboratories, working on architectures for decentralized distributed computing, and software-defined networking.

In 2010, he joined SAP Labs, where he was Senior Vice President in the Chief Scientist Group. There he worked on corporate technology futures in mobile and cloud markets, and internal research planning across all technologies. In addition, he investigated the challenges of sclaing SAP’s pioneering ‘in-memory data’ strategy up to handling many Terabytes of data in RAM. This work suggested the importance of building large, easily scalable, and easy to program server computing platforms, motivating his later inventions at TidalScale.

From 1992 to 1996, Dr. Reed spent four years at Interval Research Corporation, exploring portable and consumer media technology, as well as beginning a long term interest in extremely wideband software defined wireless radio physics and information theory. He was co-inventor on a number of projects that looked a decade into the future, leading to number of patents on system designs that anticipated later research and products that were prototyped at Interval Research, including wearable audio-visual processing (like Google Glass), “push” web advertising, and active wearable audio recognition assistance (like Siri/Alexa).

From 1978 to 1983, he was an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (now absorbed into CSAIL), and prior to his Ph.D. was a Research Assistant working on operating systems and networks. At MIT, he helped to shape the early design of LANs and communication protocols. He participated in the design of the protocol suite now used in the Internet and also worked on systems architectures for confederated networks of interconnected personal computers.

He also made major contributions to research on security and resource management in time-shared, multiprocessor computer systems as part of the Multics project.

As an undergraduate student at MIT, Dr. Reed also was involved in developing commercial implementations of MACLISP and MACSYMA. In fact, starting as a freshman, he led a team that developed the whole of the Multics MACLISP implementation, a high performance language interpreter, compiler, runtime sufficient to run MACSYMA and other advanced MACLISP applications. That version of MACLISP ran faster and supported much larger amounts of memory than the existing PDP-10 MACLISP, due to Multics’ large address space and the quality of the Multics compiler’s code.

As a teacher, he helped develop undergraduate and graduate courses in computer and communication systems design, and programming language implementation and design. He contributed to the course notes (textbooks) and curriculum of 3 undergraduate subjects, and taught or ran both undergraduate subjects and graduate seminars, both while a student, and while a professor

Dr. Reed holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and M.S and Ph.D. degrees in computer science and engineering from MIT.

Business Career

In between his active research roles, Dr. Reed has also spent significant time working on commercial products and company technology strategy. Primarily as a senior executive in leading technology companies, but also as a consulting advisor, he has led or helped lead initiatives that have produced new products or services worth hundreds of millions of dollars in aggregate.

From 2013 to the present, he has been Chief Scientist of TidalScale, Inc. At TidalScale, he helped invent the Software Defined Server, a concept for a scalable computing system platform that synthesizes quite a number of computer systems architecture ideas that have existed in some form since the Computer Utility was conceived as part of the invention of Time Sharing in the late 1960’s. While the concepts are quite old, integrating them into a single framework that presents a simple, yet powerful virtual computer abstraction to the programmer has never been done. The key ingredients enabling this new are advances in processor architecture that optimize virtual machine overhead, advances in high speed interconnections of memory and I/O, and novel ideas arising from Machine Learning-based Optimization<

From 1996-2003, he acted as an strategic advisor to small and large technology based businesses, and consultant on advanced computing and communications technology. His primary consulting activities have focused on businesses that want to capture or create value resulting from disruptive dispersion of network and computing technology into the spaces in which people and companies collaborate and partner. A significant part of this work was related to two Big Ideas. First, thecognition of “group forming” as a new and powerful business platform capability, enabled by the Internet and the protocols on top of it. Second, the idea of Real Options as a source of customer value in both products and platforms. These interact because the potentially enabled groups in business platforms like cloud services are Real Options whose value scales more than linearly with the number of participants in a network or cloud.

From 1985-1992, when he returned to research at Interval Research, Dr. Reed was vice president and chief scientist for Lotus Development Corporation, where he led the design and implementation of key products, including 1-2-3, and guided its technology strategy.

Prior to joining Lotus, Dr. Reed was vice president of research and development and chief scientist at Software Arts, the creator of VisiCalc, the first electronic spreadsheet.

Advisory Roles

Dr. Reed has played a key role on the advisory board of the TTIVanguard research and advisory program, which was begun in 1991 by CSC Index, was taken over by the Technology Transfer Institute, and is now one of the programs run by Institutional Investor.

In addition, he has advised companies ranging from startups to mature businesses on technology and business strategy that relates to technology.

Over the duration of his career, he has served in a number of capacities as an advisor to various US and State government institutions.

He participated in the FCC Spectrum Policy Task Force, and continued to advise the FCC for a term on the FCC Technological Advisory Council (TAC).

He served on the DARPA Information Science And Technology (DARPA ISAT) Study Group for a 3 year term.

He appeared as a witness in an FCC Open Commission Meeting and public en banc hearing on Broadband Network Management Practices in Februaru 2008 at Harvard Law School, a key event in establishing principles of “network neutrality” for the Internet

He served on a National Academy of Sciences Computer Science and Technology Board (CSTB) study of Wireless Technology Prospects and Policy Options producing a set of recommendations for expanding wireless communications capabilities via emerging technology.

He appeared as a witness before the U.S. House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology reviewing the issue of Deep Packet Inspection use by ISPs

He was a Fellow in the Diamond (formerly Diamond Technology Partners) DiamondExchange program.


Dr. Reed continues to build and prototype wireless systems, home LANs and portable computer technology in his home laboratory. He is also an Amateur Radio experimener (General Class License) focused on experiments with short range microwave propagation and propagation sounding, using wideband or extremely wideband modulation.