NSF: Time for an Internet do-over

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has doled out grants worth up to $US32 million in total to a pack of universities dedicated to rethinking everything about the Internet from from its core routing system to its security architecture and addressing the emergence of cloud computing and an increasingly mobile society.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has doled out grants worth up to $US32 million in total to a pack of universities dedicated to rethinking everything about the Internet from from its core routing system to its security architecture and addressing the emergence of cloud computing and an increasingly mobile society.

As Network World outlined in an article at the start of the year on what the Internet might look like in the year 2020, NSF officials said the new three-year projects will take advantage of the huge GENI virtual network lab.

Don't Miss: 10 foolproof predictions for the Internet in 2020

The NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) has announced grants for the following projects:

Named Data Networking (NDN): This project – which focuses on the Internet's central role in content creation and dissemination – uses a "dramatically different" routing approach than IP routing, according to Patrick Crowley, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at Washington University's School of Engineering & Applied Science, who is a member of a team led by UCLA's Lixia Zhang and that includes Van Jacobson, a UCLA professor of computer science who is an NDN pioneer. "It's a radical shift, but one that we think enables a qualitatively better path to eliminating redundant network traffic, securing communications, and enabling very large numbers of wireless and mobile devices."

KC Claffy, who directs the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego, adds: "By naming data instead of their location or IP address, NDN transforms data into first-class entities."

MobilityFirst: This project, being worked on by a team from nine universities plus some industry partners, focuses on optimizing the Internet to support mobile users and devices. It's being spearheaded by Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor who oversees the school's Wireless Information Network Laboratory, which Network World has profiled.

This team is working on a "clean slate" network architecture for the Internet to accommodate billions of mobile devices from smartphones to tablets. The Internet will need to better support location-aware applications as well as machine-to-machine interactions going forward, Raychaudhuri says. "The goal is to make the mobile Internet reliable, available, secure and trustworthy," he says in a statement.

Nebula: Yes, that's "cloud" in Latin. This project, headed by Jonathan Smith of the University of Pennsylvania and including researchers from Cisco, will focus on trustworthy cloud computing at a global scale.

"Security and privacy are major challenges for the emerging cloud computing model, and Nebula research will address security challenges in the network with new approaches to reliability, availability, confidentiality and other system properties," Smith said in a statement.

eXpressive Internet Architecture (XIA): This effort is focused on boosting the Internet's security and reliability, major concerns for everyone from individual to government officials monitoring cyberwar threats.

"Today's Internet is vital to the functioning of our economy and society, yet it is under enormous pressure as security attacks become more sophisticated and as new uses continue to multiply," said Peter Steenkiste, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and principal investigator on the XIA project. "A lot of wisdom is embedded in the current Internet, and we'll retain that. But parts of it are clearly broken and can't be fixed with incremental steps."

The team, which expects to have a prototype up and running within a year, will look to use hash values to identify networked documents as well as use something called the Accountable Internet Protocol to ensure proper use of public key cryptography on websites.XIA, like the NDN project, will tackle Internet performance via the addressing of packets by content rather than location, potentially slashing network traffic.

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