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$30M Grant Will Support Flexible Networks Project


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Princeton University researchers are partners on a major initiative to help shape the next generation of computer networks. The effort, known as Project Pronto, aims to build and test new types of flexible, programmable networks to advance network security, performance, and innovation.

Project Pronto is supported by a three-year, $30 million grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Leading the Princeton arm of the project is Jennifer Rexford, chair of the computer science department. The project also includes collaborators at Stanford University, Cornell University, and the nonprofit Open Networking Foundation. 

The project is one of the largest U.S. government investments in networking since the creation of ARPANET, which launched in 1969 and was the precursor to the modern Internet. "The scale of the project is noteworthy," says Rexford, Princeton's Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering. "We want to move the needle on how the Internet works."

Currently, many aspects of computer networks are predetermined by their equipment and software, which network administrators have limited ability to adapt. Project Pronto aims to create new tools that allow administrators to tailor networks to their needs, as well as more nimbly detect and mitigate problems or potential attacks.

"We want the owners of the network to have the ability to change how the network functions," Rexford says.  The project is "a way for us to dip our toes into what the future networking infrastructure might look like," she says, adding that programmable networks will be key to "the campus of the future."

The grant's principal investigator is Nick McKeown of Stanford. Other partners include Nate Foster of Cornell and the Open Networking Foundation's Guru Parulkar, Oguz Sunay, and Larry Peterson. Peterson is the foundation's chief technology officer and Princeton's Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science, Emeritus.

From Princeton University
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