"We shouldn't rely on a network that is often broken, frequently disconnected, unpredictable in its behavior, rampant with malicious users, and probably not economically sustainable." - Nick McKeown
Researchers at Stanford University in the Clean Slate Design for the Internet project are questioning the Internet as a global communications resource. Nick McKeown, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, is leading the effort to redesign the Internet, aiming to make it more efficient, rather than just patching holes, tweaking it, or devising work-arounds.
The project focuses on four areas, the first of which uses Ethane, a prototype 400-user wireless network, as an example of a secure network. Instead of allowing open communication by default (which makes security and privacy rules hard to enforce), Ethane starts out by banning all communication. Administrators then simply open whatever channels are appropriate within an organization while maintaining security.
Another topic addresses the disparity between availability of wireless network capacity and the huge growth in the use of wireless devices to access the Internet. This team is researching ways to give wireless devices the flexibility to find and access pockets of unused spectrum when they need it.
The team is also working on overhauling the interaction between routers closer to the Internet's edge (where users connect to it) and routers governing the Internet's telecommunications backbone. Called Lightflow, the project's goal is to replace big routers in the backbone with high-efficiency optical switches. These switches are more flexible and responsive to routers' demands, letting ISPs get the bandwidth they need, exactly when users need it. Optical switches would cut the cost and power consumption of commications while still increasing capacity because they use one tenth the power and have ten times the capacity of electronic routers.
The Clean Slate Design for the Internet works in conjunction with two projects already underway at the National Science Foundation. The first, GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovations), aims to build a nationwide programmable platform for research in network architectures. The other, FIND (Future Internet Network Design), aims to develop new Internet architectures.
The team hopes to improve theoretical research models of the Internet and better understand larger networks than simulations can handle. Because this is a long-term process, the team says success will be measured by looking back in about 15 years.