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EPSRC Early Career Fellowship

Awarded to Dr Ioannis Psaras

Dr Ioannis Psaras of UCL EEE has been recently awarded one of the highly competitive and prestigious EPSRC Early-Career Fellowships of £980,000 to investigate the networking and service architectures of the future. The fellowship project will run for 5 years and will fund Dr Psaras and two postdoctoral researchers. The project will focus on content-oriented approaches to networking, but will also make use of network management techniques to support more efficient resource utilisation and enable novel services. The work to be carried out emanates from previous work on ICN in Prof. George Pavlou's research group at UCL and will also benefit from network management / SDN experience also present in the group.

The project will design and implement all the required functionality to de-ossify the Internet architecture, which at the moment is limited to end-host-centric communication realised through end-host IP addresses. The IP protocol, which has become the thin-waist of the protocol stack, on the one hand guarantees a common language for communication between any network and any device, but on the other, restricts both communication and computation at the end-points of any connection. This further limits the Internet architecture from integrating new functionalities at the core of the network, unavoidably pushing innovation at the application layer.

Dr Psaras argues that network functionality (in terms of content and service management) does not necessarily need to be pushed at the application-layer of the connection's end-points, but can instead be managed at the network-layer of mid-path network entities.

To achieve these goals we will make use of the basic principles of two new networking paradigms, namely Information- Centric Networks (ICNs) and Software-Defined Networks (SDNs). ICNs introduce the notion of named-content objects and enable management of named-content at the network-layer (or data-plane) of any network device. SDNs on the other hand, focus on network management operations and push functionality at the control plane. Although both paradigms hold huge potential to change internetworking as we know it today, they both face implementation challenges.

In this project, we will combine the functionality of ICNs and SDNs and take advantage of their novel concepts to design a new common Internet playground, where innovation will not be forcefully pushed at the application layer. We will follow pragmatic implementation routes to guarantee that the challenges faced in the areas of ICN and SDN are smoothly overcome.

The high-level objectives of the project are the following:

  • implement and integrate the required technology to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) implement their own protocols of choice within their administrative domains, allowing for de-ossification of the Internet architecture.
  • allow in-network entities to execute logic and run instances of applications mid-path from source to destination, which are otherwise run within data-centres, more often than not, far away from the end-users.

The above targets will be achieved by introducing a new Internet market player, which we call In-Network Service Provider (or INSP) and who will take on the task (and cost) of implementing the proposed functionality.