Networking in the Small
Lessons for the Internet-at-large
The operation of the Internet requires a significant amount of infrastructure in order to function. Elements of this infrastructure
- DNS servers
- DHCP servers
- certificate authorities
- AAA servers
Networking in the small, between appliances in a home network for example, requires a different network architecture - one that can be deployed anywhere and does not require an expensive (and complex) infrastructure to bootstrap itself. A number of initiatives and/or technologies address this problem on different levels. For example:
- EEE 802.1 and 802.3 (Ethernet) provide a set of Layer 2 (link
layer) procedures for networking in the small or, more specifically, networking within an Ethernet broadcast domain (LAN).
- UPnP provides a set of Layer 7 (application layer) procedures for
(application) auto-discovery and auto-configuration, mostly within the confines a local or room area network.
- ad hoc networks provide auto-discovery of neighbors and routes through an arbitrary topology of host/routers.
- peer-to-peer (p2p) applications provide procedures for networking using capabilities that reside in end hosts rather than relying on the introduction of capabilities into the Internet infrastructure. Of course, these overlay networks depend on that infrastructure for pseudo-link layer connectivity under the overlay network.
Networking in the small looks to integrate these kinds of capabilities into a suite of protocols for use in Layer 3 (networking layer) solutions for small networks. The kinds of solutions being considered
- routerless routing.
- forwarding based on semantic names (e.g. "AV Controller"), eliminating the need for (DNS-like) name-to-address translations.
- true nodal auto-configuration and auto-discovery (UPnP on steroids).
- self-protection against nodal security and network intrusion attacks (auto-immunization).
- establishing trust without a central authority.
Wireless is becoming the technology of choice for connecting end host devices to the network. There is a need to optimize the interaction between wireless access networks and the Internet-at-large. Emerging enabling technologies such as Ad hoc, auto-configuring networks, multi-hop wireless mesh networks, and battery power saving modes of operation (always connected, not always listening) will impact the interaction of the wireless networks with the Internet. Additionally, mobility is a significant component of wireless network usage. Mobility impacts the internet architecture in several areas such as address translation and allocation, security and routing.
Thus emerging enabling technologies for wireless and wireline networks stress the need for flat, decentralized Internet design. What does this mean for the (next generation) Internet-at-large? Could the "networking in the small" principles be leveraged to define an internet that is less complex, less costly to maintain, more scalable, and more amenable to change? What can be done to make the access network less complex?