NSF Grant Will Spur Collaboration For Internet Tools, Information And ProtocolsSeptember 17, 1997
The beauty of the Internet is also a beast. The Internet is a global network of networks -- mostly private, and often competing among themselves. While the diffuse structure of the Internet is one of its strengths, the competitive environment has made collaboration on operational and engineering requirements difficult, and has made research on the metrics of the Internet 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 UCSD, NLANR involves the five NSF-backed supercomputing centers 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.
"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. "A non-profit is an effective, non-threatening way to collaborate on a global scale."
New Tool Provides Map of the Internet
Tracie Monk, CAIDA
Visualization of Internet traffic and structure is a critical capability in the global evolution of the net. 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.
Mapnet, a Java-based tool developed by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), will, for the first time, enable visualization of the IP-level topology and bandwidth 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 made up the global Internet.
The currently running beta version of Mapnet analyzes and presents information initially acquired from federally funded backbones and from third-party sources such as Boardwatch Magazine. Current 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 offering to contribute data or suggesting improvements for 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 in some cases, restricted -- for reasons of national security. In addition, it is difficult to measure traffic exchanges at ATM notes because of the way asynchronous transfer mode works.
Mapnet is available at:
For more information on CAIDA and other tools,
National Science Foundation