Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

what my thesis is about

Since one of the starting points will be to talk more about my thesis, here goes the abstract. Maybe I'll start a new site or blog for it, to keep things cleaner (there's a lot of stuff to discuss) but for the moment this will do, and the abstract is as good a place to start as any.

Sorry about the use of the "royal 'we'" but this is pretty much a copy/paste of the abstract from the dissertation. Also, maybe it takes some flights of fancy in terms of possibilities, but that's the point of research, isn't it?

Anyway, here goes:

Self-Organizing Resource Location and Discovery

by Diego Doval (abstract - 30 September, 2003)

Networked applications were originally centered around backbone inter-host communication. Over time, communications moved to a client-server model, where inter-host communication was used mainly for routing purposes. As network nodes became more powerful and mobile, traffic and usage of networked applications has increasingly moved towards the edge of the network, where node mobility and changes in topology and network properties are the norm rather than the exception.

Distributed self-organizing systems, where every node in the network is the functional equivalent of any other, have recently seen renewed interest due to two important developments. First, the emergence on the Internet of peer-to-peer networks to exchange data has provided clear proof that large-scale deployments of these types of networks provide reliable solutions. Second, the growing need to support highly dynamic network topologies, in particular mobile ad hoc networks, has underscored the design limits of current centralized systems, in many cases creating unwieldy or inadequate infrastructure to support these these new types of networks.

Resource Location and Discovery (RLD) is a key, yet seldom-noticed, building block for networked systems. For all its importance, comparatively little research has been done to systematically improve RLD systems and protocols that adapt well to different types of network conditions. As a result, the most widely used RLD systems today (e.g., the Internet's DNS system) have evolved in ad hoc fashion, mainly through IETF Request For Comments (RFC) documents, and so require increasingly complex and unwieldy solutions to adapt to the growing variety of usage modes, topologies, and scalability requirements found in today's networked environments.

Current large-scale systems rely on centralized, hierarchical name resolution and resource location services that are not well-suited to quick updates and changes in topology. The increasingly ad hoc nature of networks in general and of the Internet in particular is making it difficult to interact consistently with these RLD services, which in some cases were designed twenty years ago for a hard-wired Internet of a few thousand nodes.

Ideally, a resource location and discovery system for today's networked environments must be able to adapt to an evolving network topology; it should maintain correct resource location even when confronted with fast topological changes; and it should support work in an ad hoc environment, where no central server is available and the network can have a short lifetime. Needless to say, such a service should also be robust and scalable.

The thesis addresses the problem of generic, network-independent resource location and discovery through a system, Manifold, based on two peer-to-peer self-organizing protocols that fulfill the requirements for generic RLD services. Our Manifold design is completely distributed and highly scalable, providing local discovery of resources as well as global location of resources independent of the underlying network transport or topology. The self-organizing properties of the system simplify deployment and maintenance of RLD services by eliminating dependence on expensive, centrally managed and maintained servers.

As described, Manifold could eventually replace today's centralized, static RLD infrastructure with one that is self-organizing, scalable, reliable, and well-adapted to the requirements of modern networked applications and systems.

Posted by diego on November 30 2004 at 6:36 PM

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