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Building a Crash-Proof Internet

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The Internet's susceptibility to earthquakes, accidents, and other disruptions appears to be greater than people originally assumed, and a great deal of the Net's physical infrastructure is badly outdated, with upgrading challenged by high costs and technical obstacles. Stanford University computer scientist Nick McKeown has identified the router as the key to making the Internet more resilient, and with colleague Guru Parulkar is working on a system that can modify a router's control software on the spur of the moment while also providing a safe testbed.

McKeown hopes that the adoption of the OpenFlow system will allow the Internet to adapt to shifting loads, dynamically tweaking routes to contend with increases in traffic, and making the ride smoother for Web surfers regardless of disruptions. OpenFlow also could facilitate the inexpensive and rapid implementation of a virtual Internet in which thousands of researchers can test and refine novel concepts concurrently. OpenFlow enables software engineers and developers to create their own routes for data packets by writing the algorithms on a regular computer and transmitting them through a secure link to the router, thus allowing the partitioning of a network into any number of isolated sections where researchers can experiment with their ideas. The deployment of new ideas should be accelerated thanks to the open source nature of OpenFlow's software, McKeown says.

One of OpenFlow's key advantages could lie in its ability to change the way that data packets travel across the network, as the system could enable competing multipath schemes to be tested on the same network to qualify the benefits they offer. The system also could allow network operators to alter their router's rules so that specific kinds of data are transmitted along specific routes, while network security could be enhanced by OpenFlow because it could enable the testing of more secure versions of router code on existing systems without impeding traffic.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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