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NSF Announces Future Internet Architecture Awards

children using the Internet

Children using the Internet for a school project. The U.S. National Science Foundation's Future Internet Architecture program seeks to foster new potential avenues of change for the Internet, making it more useful, safe and trustworthy.

Credit: Karen Randall / National Science Foundation

The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced awards Friday (August 27) for four new projects, each worth up to $8 million over three years, as part of the Future Internet Architecture (FIA) program.

These awards will enable researchers at dozens of institutions across the United States to pursue new ways to build a more trustworthy and robust Internet.

"As our reliance on a secure and highly dependable information technology infrastructure continues to increase, it is no longer clear that emerging and future needs of our society can be met by the current trajectory of incremental changes to the current Internet," says Ty Znati, director of the Computer and Network Systems Division within CISE. "Thus our call to the research community to propose new Internet architectures that hold promise for the future."

Earlier this year, NSF challenged the network science research community to look past the constraints of today's networks and engage in collaborative, long-range, transformative thinking inspired by lessons learned and promising new research ideas. The goal, according to Znati, was to encourage the community to design and experiment with new comprehensive network architectures and networking concepts that can meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, taking into consideration the larger social, economic and legal issues that arise from the interplay between the Internet and society.

The four basic research and system design projects funded under FIA explore different dimensions of the network architecture design space and emphasize different visions of future networks. NSF anticipates that the teams will explore new directions and a diverse range of research thrusts within their research agenda but also work together to enhance and possibly integrate architectural thinking, concepts and components, paving the way to a comprehensive trustworthy network architecture of the future.

"Over the next three years the FIA effort will include the design, prototyping, and evaluation of different aspects of network architectures," says Victor Frost, Program Director for the FIA projects.

The FIA projects include leaders in computer science and electrical engineering as well as experts in law, economics, security, privacy, and public policy. The program will support 60 researchers at over 30 institutions across the country. A description of the projects follows.

Named Data Networking
Principle Investigator: Lixia Zhang, UCLA
Collaborating Institutions: Colorado State University, Palo Alto Research Center, University of Arizona, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign, UC Irvine, University of Memphis, UC San Diego, Washington University, and Yale University

The current Internet's traditional approach to communications is based on a client-server model of interaction; communicating parties establish a relationship and then proceed to transfer information where data contained within IP packets are transported along a single path. Today, however, the most predominant use of the Internet is centered on content creation, dissemination and delivery, and this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. While the basic client-server model has enabled a wide range of services and applications, it does not incorporate adequate mechanisms to support secure content-oriented functionality, regardless of the specific physical location where the content resides. The proposed Named Data Networking (NDN) architecture moves the communication paradigm from today's focus on "where", i.e., addresses, servers, and hosts, to "what", i.e., the content that users and applications care about. By naming data instead of their location (IP address), NDN transforms data into first-class entities. While the current Internet secures the communication channel or path between two communication points and sometimes the data with encryption, NDN secures the content and provides essential context for security. This approach allows the decoupling of trust in data from trust in hosts and servers, enabling trustworthiness as well as several radically scalable communication mechanisms, for example, automatic caching to optimize bandwidth and the potential to move content along multiple paths to the destination. This project addresses the technical challenges in creating NDN, including routing scalability, fast forwarding, trust models, network security, content protection and privacy, and a new fundamental communication theory enabling its design.

Principle Investigator: Dipankar Raychaudhuri, Rutgers University
Collaborating Institutions: Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, University of Massachusetts/Lowell, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska/Lincoln, University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill

The design principles of the Internet, its flexibility, adaptability and ubiquity, have enabled an unprecedented wave of innovation, which transformed our lives; yet the increasing user demand for seamless communication on the move brings about new challenges that stress the current Internet, originally designed to support communications between fixed end-points. The MobilityFirst project takes a different approach and proposes an architecture centered on mobility as the norm, rather than the exception. The architecture uses generalized delay-tolerant networking (GDTN) to provide robustness even in the presence of link/network disconnections. GDNT integrated with the use of self-certifying public key addresses provides an inherently trustworthy network. Dealing with mobility as a first class entity allows functionalities like context- and location-aware services to fit naturally into the network. The project focuses on the tradeoffs between mobility and scalability and on opportunistic use of network resources to achieve effective communications among mobile endpoints.

Principle Investigator: Jonathan Smith, University of Pennsylvania
Collaborating Institutions: Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Purdue University, Stanford University, Stevens Institute of Technology, University of California/Berkley, University of Delaware, University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign, University of Texas, University of Washington

The growing trend toward migrating storage, computation, and applications into the "cloud" is creating unprecedented opportunities for global-scale, network-centric computing infrastructure, enabling new ways of fast resource provisioning, utility pricing and consistent and easy management. NEBULA is an architecture (nebula is Latin for cloud) in which cloud computing data centers are the primary repositories of data and the primary locus of computation. In this future model, the data centers are connected by a high-speed, extremely reliable and secure backbone network. The project focuses on developing new trustworthy data, control and core networking approaches to support the emerging cloud computing model of always-available network services. This project addresses the technical challenges in creating a cloud-computing-centric architecture.

eXpressive Internet Architecture
Principle Investigator: Peter Steenkiste, Carnegie Mellon University
Collaborating Institutions: Boston University, University of Wisconsin/Madison

The eXpressive Internet Architecture (XIA) addresses the growing diversity of network use models, the need for trustworthy communication, and the growing set of stakeholders who coordinate their activities to provide Internet services. XIA addresses these needs by exploring the technical challenges in creating a single network that offers inherent support for communication between current communicating principals—including hosts, content, and services—while accommodating unknown future entities. For each type of principal, XIA defines a narrow waist that dictates the application programming interface (API) for communication and the network communication mechanisms. XIA provides intrinsic security in which the integrity and authenticity of communication is guaranteed. XIA enables flexible context-dependent mechanisms for establishing trust between the communicating principals, bridging the gap between human and intrinsically secure identifiers. This project includes user experiments to evaluate and refine the interface between the network and users, and studies that analyze the relationship between technical design decisions, and economic incentives and public policy.

The program staff involved with the project at NSF stress that the FIA program is just one step toward an improved Internet of the future. "While the ultimate goal is the design and deployment of a network that serves all the needs of society, we realize that these projects are just the beginning of what it would take to create a full scale Future Internet," says Darleen Fisher, program director for the FIA projects. "We expect that the knowledge obtained from this research will inform the development of future networks."


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