The WING Blog

The Web and Internetworking Group at BU/CS



Is it clean-slate or more of the same?

By matta

The July IEEE Communications magazine has a special issue on Future Internet Architectures (FIA). The first article by Raj Jain et al. gives a survey of some FIA research projects in the US, Europe and Asia:

From reading this article, you get a sense that we’re still doing things backwards 😉 The authors write that step 1 is coming up with innovations, then step 2 putting them into an overall network architecture. Really! Why should we believe that these individual innovations would “fit” together. Remember, the NAT was an “innovation”, and all sorts of patches we did to the Internet over the last 30-40 years. Do they fit? If so, the research community wouldn’t have rallied behind “clean-slate” FIA!

The government is funding research that proposed design without a theory – but it proposed to come up with “an underlying theory supporting the design”. Hmm, shouldn’t theory come first? 🙂

And people talk about “data are named instead of their location (IP addresses)”.  Well, in CS, names have always been structured to find where things are. So, a real theory would think about the similarities and differences between names and addresses, e.g. that addresses are just shorter names to make it more efficient to carry them in packet headers…

And people keep confusing storage management (a la DTN) with communication… We need a theory that tells us when to “store” vs. just forward.

The article ends with “even those collaborative ones like in FIA program, put more emphasis on a specific attribute or a specific set of problems. It seems to be a tough problem to handle many challenges in a single architecture design.” And we need a “comprehensive theory in the research process rather than designing based only on experiences.” I agree. The community can’t seem to be able to think really clean-slate.

Based on our research so far, it seems that (really!) clean-slate thinking would give you a very simple architecture with one recursive block that has only two protocols. Meet RINA:  🙂

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