NSF Grant Will Spur Collaboration For Internet Tools, Information And Protocols

September 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:"Commercial organizations recognize the critical need to work cooperatively with public and private industry in order to advance the state of the Internet," said Ed Kozel, chief technical officer, Cisco Systems. Cisco (a leading provider of networking hardware and software for the Internet) recently pledged $150,000 to support a CAIDA taxonomy of available Internet measurement tools. Sun Microsystems and other leading technology vendors are also in the process of donating systems to be used in the next generation Internet Protocol (Ipv6), caching and other research endeavors.

"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."

-NSF-
Editors: For more information about CAIDA, see: http://www.caida.org


Backgrounder


New Tool Provides Map of the Internet

Media contacts:
Beth Gaston
703-306-1070
egaston@nsf.gov
Tracie Monk, CAIDA
(619) 822-0943
tmonk@nlanr.net

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:
http://www.caida.org/Tools/Mapnet/Backbones

For more information on CAIDA and other tools,
see: http://www.caida.org

National Science Foundation
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