Postmodern internetwork architecture

TitlePostmodern internetwork architecture
Publication TypeJournal Articles
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsBhattacharjee B, Calvert K, Griffioen J, Spring N, Sterbenz JPG
JournalITTC-FY2006-TR-45030-01, Information and Telecommunication Center, The University of Kansas
Date Published2006/02//

Network-layer innovation has proven surprisingly difficult, in part because internetworking protocols ignore com-peting economic interests and because a few protocols dominate, enabling layer violations that entrench technologies.
Many shortcomings of today’s internetwork layer result from its inflexibility with respect to the policies of the stake-
holders: users and service providers. The consequences of these failings are well-known: various hacks, layering
violations, and overloadings are introduced to enforce policies and attempt to get the upper hand in various “tus-
sles”. The result is a network that is increasingly brittle, hostile to innovation, vulnerable to attack, and insensitive to
concerns about accountability and privacy.
Our project aims to design, implement, and evaluate through daily use a minimalist internetwork layer and aux-
iliary functionality that anticipates tussles and allows them to be played out in policy space, as opposed to in the
packet-forwarding path. We call our approach postmodern internetwork architecture, because it is a reaction against
many established network layer design concepts. The overall goal of the project is to make a larger portion of the
network design space accessible without sacrificing the economy of scale offered by the unified Internet.
We will use the postmodern architecture to explore basic architectural questions. These include:
• What mechanisms should be supported by the network such that any foreseeable policy requirement can be
explicitly addressed?
• To what extent can routing and forwarding be isolated from each other while maintaining an efficient and
usable network?
• What forms of identity should be visible within the network, and what forms of accountability do different
identities enable?
• What mechanisms are needed to enable efficient access to cross-layer information and mechanisms such that
lower layers can express their characteristics and upper layers can exert control downward?
We plan to build and evaluate a complete end-to-end networking layer to help us understand feasible solutions to
these questions.
The Internet has fulfilled the potential of a complete generation of networking research by producing a global
platform for innovation, commerce, and democracy. Unfortunately, the Internet also amply demonstrates the com-
plexity and architectural ugliness that ensue when competing interests vie for benefits beyond those envisioned in
the original design. This project is about redesigning the waist of the architectural hourglass to foster innovation,
enhance security and accountability, and accomodate competing interests.