Towards an Extensible Internet

Principal Investigator(s): 
Scott Shenker

This research is in collaboaration with scientists at University of Washington, NYU, and Mount Holyoke College.

The Internet has created a world of universal connectivity, where any two devices can communicate as long as they are both connected to the Internet. The Internet architecture is a miraculous feat of engineering, remaining largely unchanged while scaling from an early prototype to the centerpiece of the global communications infrastructure. Having grown to such an unprecedented scale, the Internet is now the victim of its own success in that the Internet’s core protocol, IP, is now embedded in every router and thus is essentially impossible to change in any fundamental way. Yet to achieve goals like better performance and greater security, it is clear that the Internet must eventually change. The central technical question facing the Internet is thus: can we fundamentally change the Internet without changing IP?

In this project, researchers at ICSI argue that the answer to this question is most definitely “yes”. Leveraging insights from the large private networks recently built by cloud and content providers and a long line of academic research, they describe an approach called the Extensible Internet (EI) that has three essential properties:

Deployable: EI can be deployed without any significant changes to the current infrastructure, and without breaking any current applications. Moreover, it leverages commodity computing racks, rather than special purpose networking equipment, and can be rolled out as part of the ongoing push to support edge computing.

Extensible: Transitioning to EI is not just a one-time change in functionality, but transforms the Internet from a single and unchanging service model (best effort packet delivery) to an evolving and expanding set of network provided services. These services can range from supporting specific use cases (e.g., streaming, gaming, IoT), to improving security and privacy (e.g., DDoS protection, oDNSlike name resolution), to providing new delivery models (e.g., multicast, multihoming, mobility), to entirely new architectures (e.g., ICN designs).

Compatible with ecosystem incentives: Deploying EI would make financial sense for both carriers and cloud/content providers alike.

This research is funded by an EAGER grant from NSF, the National Science Foundation.