Have you ever pondered the future internet architecture? What will the internet look like in the coming years?
With nearly one-third of the global population now connected, our dependence on the Internet is undeniable, and the thought of living without it seems almost inconceivable. Driven by technological innovations and the ever-evolving demands of emerging and yet-to-be-discovered applications, it’s clear that the Internet of the future will bear little resemblance to what we experience today.
In a remarkably short span, the Internet has ushered in unprecedented opportunities for advancing human knowledge. What began as a modest network of interconnected networks has since grown to become an indispensable part of our daily lives, essential to the functioning of nearly every sector in society. However, the sustained success of the Internet faces growing threats from increasingly sophisticated security attacks and the unreliability of Internet services. As our reliance on a secure and highly dependable information technology infrastructure continues to surge, it’s no longer guaranteed that the present Internet can adequately meet the emerging demands of our society.
Recognizing this need for a secure and highly dependable information technology infrastructure and building on the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s ongoing investments in network science and engineering, the Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) has created the Future Internet Architecture (FIA) program to stimulate innovative and creative research to explore, design, and evaluate trustworthy future Internet architectures. The objective is to get the research community to collaborate on visionary, transformative thinking – unfettered by the constraints of today’s networks, yet inspired by lessons learned and promising new research ideas – to design and experiment with new network architectures and concepts that take into consideration the larger social, economic, and legal issues that arise from the interplay between the Internet and society.
Here are some of the interesting ideas that have arisen from this program:
Named Data Networking
The current Internet’s traditional approach to communications is based on a client-server model of interaction: communicating parties establish a relationship and then proceed to transfer information where data contained within IP packets are transported along a single path. Today, however, the most predominant use of the Internet is centered on content creation, dissemination, and delivery, and this trend is likely to continue. The proposed Named Data Networking (NDN) architecture moves the communication paradigm from today’s focus on “where” (URL addresses, servers, and hosts) to “what” (the content that users and applications care about). By naming data instead of their location (IP address), NDN transforms data into first-class entities. NDN secures the content and provides essential context for security, enabling trustworthiness as well as several radically scalable communication mechanisms such as automatic caching to optimize bandwidth and the potential to move content along multiple paths to the destination.
The Internet’s flexibility, adaptability, and ubiquity have enabled an unprecedented wave of innovation that transformed our lives. Yet increasing user demand for seamless communication on the go brings about new challenges that stress the current Internet, originally designed to support communications between fixed end-points. The MobilityFirst project takes a different approach and proposes an architecture centered on mobility as the norm, rather than the exception. The architecture provides robustness even when networks are disconnected. Integrated with the use of self-certifying public key addresses that provide an inherently trustworthy network, the project focuses on the tradeoffs between mobility and scalability and on the opportunistic use of network resources.
The growing trend towards migrating storage and applications into the “cloud” is creating new opportunities for global-scale, network-centric computing infrastructures. Enabling new ways of provisioning resources, cheaper pricing, and easy management, NEBULA (Latin for cloud) is an architecture in which the primary stores of data and the place of computation is in the cloud. In this future model, the data centers are connected by a high-speed, extremely reliable and secure mainstay network. The project focuses on developing new trustworthy data, control, and core networking approaches to support the emerging cloud computing model of always-available network services, and also addresses the technical challenges in creating a cloud-computing-centric architecture.
eXpressive Internet Architecture
The eXpressive Internet Architecture (XIA) addresses the growing diversity of network use models, the need for trustworthy communication, and the growing set of stakeholders who coordinate their activities to provide Internet services. XIA explores the technical challenges in creating a single network that offers built-in support for communication between communicating principals–including hosts, content, and services–while accommodating unknown future entities. XIA dictates the application programming interface (API) for communication and the network communication mechanisms and provides intrinsic security in which the authenticity of communication is guaranteed. XIA enables mechanisms for establishing trust between the communicating principals, bridging the gap between human and intrinsically secure identifiers. This project includes user experiments to evaluate and refine the interface between the network and users, and studies that analyze the relationship between technical design decisions, and economic incentives, and public policy.
The Internet has been critical for business, government, military, and personal communication. Some recent trends in technology and network use have pushed the capabilities required of the Internet beyond what can be provided by the current infrastructure. The ChoiceNet project aims to develop a new architectural Internet design that will enable sustainable innovation in the core of the network, using economic principles. The idea is to support “choice” as the central aspect of the architecture. It encourages alternatives to allow users to choose from a range of services, lets users vote with their wallet to reward superior services, and provides the means to stay informed on available alternatives and their performances. Solutions are approached from different directions, reflecting the team’s multidisciplinary expertise in computer networking, network systems, management science, and network economics.
The FIA program is just one step towards an improved internet of the future. “While the ultimate goal is the design and deployment of a network that serves all the needs of society, we realize that these projects are just the beginning of what it would take to create a full-scale Future Internet,” says Darleen Fisher, program director for the FIA projects. “We expect that the knowledge obtained from this research will inform the development of future networks.”
It’s good to know there are some great minds working on the next iteration of the Internet. It’s coming!
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