Press Archive

NSF Grant to CAIDA Will Spur Collaboration on Internet Tools, Information, and Protocols

Published 09/18/1997

For more information, contact:

Tracie Monk, CAIDA
619-822-0943
619-534-5056
tmonk@nlanr.net

Ann Redelfs, SDSC
619-534-5032 (voice)
619-534-5077 (fax)
redelfs@sdsc.edu

The Internet is a global network of networks -- mostly private, and often competing among themselves for customers. While the diffuse structure of the Internet is one of its strengths, the competitive environment has made collaboration on operational and engineering improvements difficult, and has made the collection of accurate measurements of Internet message traffic, routing patterns, and throughput virtually impossible.

To help address these concerns, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a seed grant of more than $3.1 million over three years to the University of California, San Diego to establish the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA). The association is aimed at promoting a more robust, scalable Internet infrastructure. CAIDA will foster engineering and technical collaborations among Internet providers, vendors, and user groups.

"CAIDA will provide a neutral forum for competing interests to work together," said Tracie Monk, CAIDA director of external affairs.

"As the Internet was evolving, statistics about the NSFNET, the major backbone, were readily available. And operational standards were set through a collaborative 'Request for Comments' process. Now that the Internet has grown into a competitive, commercial environment, modes of collaboration must also change."

CAIDA is a spinoff of the NSF-supported National Laboratory for applied Network Research (NLANR). Based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), an NSF national laboratory located on the UCSD campus, NLANR involves four other NSF centers as well and supports the very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS). CAIDA and NLANR will continue to collaborate. CAIDA's focus will be on the commercial sector and on transferring to industrial use many of the new tools and technologies being developed by NLANR and other research institutions. CAIDA's initial goals include:

* Collaborating with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and others to create a set of Internet performance metrics (while working with industry, consumer, regulatory and other representatives to assure their utility and acceptance);

* Creating a collaborative research environment in which commercial providers can develop tools to share performance and engineering data confidentially, or in desensitized forms; and,

* Fostering the development of advanced networking technologies, such as: Multicast and the MBONE; traffic performance and flow characterization tools; traffic visualizations, simulations and analyses; "Next Generation" protocols and technologies; web caching protocols; and protocols for bandwidth reservation and quality of service guarantees.

"Commercial organizations recognize the critical need to work cooperatively with public and private industry in order to advance the state of the Internet," said Ed Kozel, chief technical officer, Cisco Systems. Cisco (a leading provider of networking hardware and software for the Internet) recently pledged $150,000 to support a CAIDA taxonomy of available Internet measurement tools. Sun Microsystems and other leading technology vendors are also in the process of donating systems to be used in the next generation Internet Protocol (IP version 6), caching and other research endeavors.

"The continued stability and usefulness of the Internet relies on the development of advanced technologies to keep pace with the Internet's growth and evolution," said David Staudt, NSF program officer for CAIDA. "A non-profit is an effective, non-threatening way to collaborate on a global scale."

One result of the CAIDA program already is in beta release for testing by users. Mapnet, a Java-based visualization tool, will enable researchers for the first time to see a representation of the IP-level topology and bandwidth of the many networks that create the global Internet. The tool also provides information about which networks exchange data (or "peer") at which hubs.

Previous efforts to visualize network traffic and structure were confined to the NSFNET backbone (now decommissioned), which was only one of the many networks that comprised the Internet.

"Visualization of traffic and structure is a critical capability in the global evolution of the Internet," said Monk. "Policy makers and technology specialists need to see what the Internet looks like and what it's doing in order to ensure its continued operation and sustained growth."

The current version of Mapnet analyzes and presents information initially acquired from federally funded backbones and from third-party sources such as Boardwatch magazine. Up-to-date information from primary sources is vital to the accuracy of the visualization, so an associated template allows Internet service providers to verify, correct, or update the information available to Mapnet. Since Mapnet's beta release in early September, CAIDA staff have been contacted by administrators of commercial networks and of research and education networks with offers to contribute data or with suggestions for improvements in the next release of the tool.

Mapnet currently operates with some limitations. The veracity of some of the initial information is questionable. Some information (traffic levels, peering details, actual physical links and lines) that would be invaluable for research is not available because Internet providers consider the data proprietary -- or for some military and foreign providers, restricted for reasons of national security. In addition, it is inherently difficult to measure traffic exchanges at ATM nodes because of the way asynchronous transfer mode works.

Java source code for the beta version of Mapnet is available at http://www.caida.org/Tools/Mapnet/Backbones/.

The San Diego Supercomputer Center, a national laboratory for computational science and engineering, is affiliated with the University of California at San Diego, administered by General Atomics, and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, other federal agencies, the State and University of California, and private organizations. For additional information about SDSC, see http://www.sdsc.edu/ on the World Wide Web, or contact Ann Redelfs, SDSC, 619-534-5032, redelfs@sdsc.edu. See http://www.nlanr.net/ for information on NLANR.

For more information about CAIDA, see http://www.caida.org/, or contact Tracie Monk, CAIDA, 619-822-0943, tmonk@nlanr.net or Beth Gaston, NSF, 703-306-1070, egaston@nsf.gov.