Princeton University Computer Science researchers envision an Internet that is more flexible for data center operators and more useful to mobile users. Princeton's open source Serval system is what Assistant Professor of Computer Science Michael Freedman calls a Service Access Layer that sits between the IP Network Layer (Layer 3) and Transport Layer (Layer 4), where it can work with unmodified network devices. Serval's purpose is to make Web services such as Gmail and Facebook more easily accessible, regardless of where an end user is, via a services naming scheme that augments what the researchers call an IP address set-up "designed for communication between fixed hosts with topology-dependent addresses." Data center operators could benefit by running Web servers in virtual machines across the cloud and rely less on traditional load balancers.
Serval, which Freedman describes as a "replacement" technology, will likely have its first production applications in service-provider networks. "Its largest benefits come from more dynamic settings, so its features most clearly benefit the cloud and mobile spaces," he says.
If any of this sounds similar to software-defined networking (SDN), there are in fact connections. Freedman worked on an SDN/OpenFlow project at Stanford University called Ethane that was spun out into a startup called Nicira for which VMware recently plunked down $1.26 billion.
WiFi routers to the rescue
Researchers at Germany's Technical University in Darmstadt have described a way for home Wi-Fi routers to form a backup mesh network to be used by the police, firefighters and other emergency personnel in the case of a disaster or other incident that wipes out standard cell and phone systems.
The proliferation of Wi-Fi routers makes the researchers confident that a dense enough ad hoc network could be created, but they noted that a lack of unsecured routers would require municipalities to work with citizens to allow for the devices to be easily switched into emergency mode. The big question is whether enough citizens would really allow such access, even if security was assured.
University of Tulsa engineers want to slow everything down, for just a few milliseconds, to help network administrations avoid cyberattacks.