WP5 - A new path abstraction

The main objective of Formux is to develop an approach and the necessary mechanisms for a generic path abstraction that can incorporate recent advances on techniques to enhance the efficiency of data transport, including use of multiple routes, exploiting the benefit of network coding, or realising diversity gains in a wireless network by cooperative coding. The generic path abstraction is also intended to provide an easy-to-use and efficient operation for both user and network, adapting transport procedures to the capabilities of the underlying network. Expected benefits are improved performance and resilience, as well as a stronger semantics such as connecting areas or information objects with each other or making concepts like anycasting transparently available.

Information transfer is currently realized by establishing TCP connections or just by sending datagrams with UDP. Paths exist implicitly through the choices made by IP routing protocols but these are largely unknown to end users and can be difficult to control for the network operator. The quality of a path is largely unpredictable due, for instance, to congestion or poor transmission quality, especially when wireless links are used. The generic path will retain the facility a simple socket-like interface as in IP while providing enhanced control facilities, as necessary, for both user and operator. The generic path will be defined in the context of the Information Network paradigm developed in 4WARD, enabling connections to information objects rather than just to specific hosts.

The generic path will provide necessary awareness of constraints at lower layers for efficient wireless communication and for optimal use of new dynamic optical switching technology, for instance. New coding techniques such as network coding and rateless source coding can significantly improve transfer efficiency and the work package will investigate how they can be exploited within the generic path abstraction. Routing is clearly an essential consideration for the quality of a generic path. Concurrent use of multiple paths for both point-to-point and swarm-like communications will be evaluated. Path selection will be aware of lower layer characteristics to ensure necessary quality and reliability for given applications.

It is clearly necessary to revisit the issue of network QoS which, despite efforts over many years, has still not received a completely satisfactory solution. Realised generic path performance depends on mechanisms such as end-to-end congestion control and router queue management that determine how they share network resources. Economic issues such as the creation of a true provider market by empowering user controlled path choice must be taken into account.

Lastly, it is essential that the generic path enable user mobility. It is envisaged that users will have an increasing range of access facilities with the ensuing requirement that the generic path should facilitate mobility management for multi-homed users over all kinds of wired and wireless interface.

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