5
Concluding Observations

A reviewer of a draft of this report observed that this proposed framework—measure, develop theory, prototype new ideas—looks a lot like Research 101. Why did this exploratory effort end up framing a research program along these lines? From the perspective of the outsiders, the insiders did not show that they had managed to execute the usual elements of a successful research program, so a back-to-basics message was fitting.

Both insiders and outsiders agreed that progress on each of these fronts would require effort, attention, and resources, and that each posed its own special challenges, and they also agreed that such investment could have significant payoffs. It is, to be sure, a daunting challenge, because the three dimensions of Internet ossification identified in Chapter 1 stifle the design of innovative alternatives. It is also possible that the workshop participants’ enthusiasm about opportunities for change might be tempered by seeing new ideas realized. The outsiders seriously considered the words of Harry S.Truman: “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”1 If they had been Trumanesque, they would have applauded continuing research on higher Internet bandwidth, on quality of service protocols, and so forth. However, the outsiders expressed the view that the network research community should not devote all—or even the majority—of its time to fixing current Internet problems.

Instead, networking research should more aggressively seek to develop new ideas and approaches. A program that does this would be centered on the three M’s—measurement of the Internet, modeling of the Internet, and making disruptive prototypes. These elements can be summarized as follows:

  • Measuring—The Internet lacks the means to perform comprehensive measurement on activity in the network. Better information on the network would provide the basis for uncovering trends, as a baseline for understanding the implications of introducing new ideas into the network, and would help drive simulations that could be used for designing new architectures and protocols. This report challenges the research community to develop the means to capture a day in the life of the Internet to provide such information.

  • Modeling—The community lacks an adequate theoretical basis for understanding many pressing problems such as network robustness and manageability. A more fundamental understanding of these important problems requires new theoretical foundations—ways of reasoning about these problems—that are rooted in realistic assumptions. Also, advances are needed if we are to successfully model the full range of behaviors displayed in real-life, large-scale networks.

  • Making disruptive prototypes—To encourage thinking that is unconstrained by the current Internet, “Plan B” approaches should be pursued that begin with a clean slate and only later (if warranted) consider migration from current technology. A number of disruptive design ideas and an implementation strategy for testing them are described in Chapter 4.

When contemplating launching a new agenda along these lines it is also worth noting, as workshop participants did repeatedly during the course of the workshop, that in the past, the networking research community made attempts at broad new research initiatives, some of which failed at various levels and others of which succeeded beyond expectations. There is little systematic process for learning from these attempts, however. Failures are rarely documented, despite the potential value of documentation to the community. Failures can be embarrassing to the individuals concerned, and writing up failures is unlikely to be considered as productive as

1  

Edward R.Morrow television interview, “Person to Person,” CBS, May 27, 1955.



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Looking Over the Fence at Networks: A Neighbor’s View of Networking Research 5 Concluding Observations A reviewer of a draft of this report observed that this proposed framework—measure, develop theory, prototype new ideas—looks a lot like Research 101. Why did this exploratory effort end up framing a research program along these lines? From the perspective of the outsiders, the insiders did not show that they had managed to execute the usual elements of a successful research program, so a back-to-basics message was fitting. Both insiders and outsiders agreed that progress on each of these fronts would require effort, attention, and resources, and that each posed its own special challenges, and they also agreed that such investment could have significant payoffs. It is, to be sure, a daunting challenge, because the three dimensions of Internet ossification identified in Chapter 1 stifle the design of innovative alternatives. It is also possible that the workshop participants’ enthusiasm about opportunities for change might be tempered by seeing new ideas realized. The outsiders seriously considered the words of Harry S.Truman: “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”1 If they had been Trumanesque, they would have applauded continuing research on higher Internet bandwidth, on quality of service protocols, and so forth. However, the outsiders expressed the view that the network research community should not devote all—or even the majority—of its time to fixing current Internet problems. Instead, networking research should more aggressively seek to develop new ideas and approaches. A program that does this would be centered on the three M’s—measurement of the Internet, modeling of the Internet, and making disruptive prototypes. These elements can be summarized as follows: Measuring—The Internet lacks the means to perform comprehensive measurement on activity in the network. Better information on the network would provide the basis for uncovering trends, as a baseline for understanding the implications of introducing new ideas into the network, and would help drive simulations that could be used for designing new architectures and protocols. This report challenges the research community to develop the means to capture a day in the life of the Internet to provide such information. Modeling—The community lacks an adequate theoretical basis for understanding many pressing problems such as network robustness and manageability. A more fundamental understanding of these important problems requires new theoretical foundations—ways of reasoning about these problems—that are rooted in realistic assumptions. Also, advances are needed if we are to successfully model the full range of behaviors displayed in real-life, large-scale networks. Making disruptive prototypes—To encourage thinking that is unconstrained by the current Internet, “Plan B” approaches should be pursued that begin with a clean slate and only later (if warranted) consider migration from current technology. A number of disruptive design ideas and an implementation strategy for testing them are described in Chapter 4. When contemplating launching a new agenda along these lines it is also worth noting, as workshop participants did repeatedly during the course of the workshop, that in the past, the networking research community made attempts at broad new research initiatives, some of which failed at various levels and others of which succeeded beyond expectations. There is little systematic process for learning from these attempts, however. Failures are rarely documented, despite the potential value of documentation to the community. Failures can be embarrassing to the individuals concerned, and writing up failures is unlikely to be considered as productive as 1   Edward R.Morrow television interview, “Person to Person,” CBS, May 27, 1955.

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Looking Over the Fence at Networks: A Neighbor’s View of Networking Research writing up successes. Accordingly, it would be useful to convene an “autopsy workshop” from time to time, perhaps even annually, devoted to learning from past history, at both the individual solution level and the larger research areas level. Documenting negative results will help avoid wasted effort (the reinvention of faulty wheels). A postmortem on larger research areas will help to guide future research by increasing understanding of the specific successes and failures, as well as the underlying reasons for them (economics, for example, or politics). Within research areas, the successes and failures of interest include attempts at disruption to conventional networking, which so far have met with mixed success. Two initial candidates suggested by discussions at this workshop would be quality of service and active networking.

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Looking Over the Fence at Networks: A Neighbor’s View of Networking Research Appendixes

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Looking Over the Fence at Networks: A Neighbor’s View of Networking Research This page in the original is blank.