A Look Behind the Future Internet Architectures Efforts

By: 
Darleen Fisher
Appears in: 
CCR July 2014

The Future Internet Architectures (FIA) constitutes a 10year effort by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) that was launched in 2006, with the announcement of the Future INternet Design (FIND) research area within a Network Technologies and Systems (NeTS) program solicitation. This solicitation outlined a three-phase program to "rethink" the Internet, beginning with FIND and culminating in the recently announced two-year awards for Future Internet ArchitectureNext Phase (FIA-NP). Because many readers may not be familiar with the thinking behind this effort, this article aims to provide a historical context and background for the technical papers included in this issue.

Public Review By: 
David Wetherall

We’re pleased to present a section on the Future Internet Architecture program. Since 2010, much time and effort has been devoted to five large projects that are developing, exploring and evaluating “new and improved” network architectures to carry the Internet into the future. This section includes a paper from each of the projects to capture a snapshot of where they are now. We begin with a short editorial from Darleen Fisher of the NSF to provide context on the program, what has yielded so far, and what comes next. The five papers that follow each explore a key architectural thrust: Content as first-class (Named Data Networking, PI: Zhang); Mobility from the ground up (MobilityFirst, PI: Raychaudhuri); Working with the cloud (NEBULA, PI: Smith); Building in extensibility (eXpressive Internet Architecture, PI: Steenkiste); and Factoring in economic incentives (ChoiceNet, PI: Wolf). What did the reviewers think? There was widespread appreciation for and agreement on the value of all five thrusts. Each thrust is manifestly an aspect in which the existing Internet architecture has been found lacking that will be more important in the future, and in which each project has staked out detailed design. (This point makes me wonder how, if each is critical, the different thrusts will be synthesized! Will XIA enable the others?) Reviewers can be a demanding lot: they wanted more. There was less agreement on what readers should take from each project in terms of what was learned and what was novel. We hope that you will look at the papers and decide for yourself. Part of the difficulty is knowing how to evaluate architecture papers, since an architecture shows its value over time, and most good architectures are not all that novel in terms of new ideas. As a community, perhaps we lack a good way of evaluating architectural work?