Cognizant Networks: A Model and Framework for Session-based Communications and Adaptive Networking
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The Internet has made tremendous progress since its inception. The kingpin has been the transmission control protocol (TCP), which supports a large fraction of communication. With the Internet's wide-spread access, users now have increased expectations. The demands have evolved to an extent which TCP was never designed to support. Since network stacks do not provide the necessary functionality for modern applications, developers are forced to implement them over and over again --- as part of the application or supporting libraries. Consequently, application developers not only bear the burden of developing application features but are also responsible for building networking libraries to support sophisticated scenarios. This leads to considerable duplication of effort. The challenge for TCP in supporting modern use cases is mostly due to limiting assumptions, simplistic communication abstractions, and (once expedient) implementation shortcuts. To further add to the complexity, the limited TCP options space is insufficient to support extensibility and thus, contemporary communication patterns. Some argue that radical changes are required to extend the networks functionality; some researchers believe that a clean slate approach is the only path forward. Others suggest that evolution of the network stack is necessary to ensure wider adoption --- by avoiding a flag day. In either case, we see that the proposed solutions have not been adopted by the community at large. This is perhaps because the cost of transition from the incumbent to the new technology outweighs the value offered. In some cases, the limited scope of the proposed solutions limit their value. In other cases, the lack of backward compatibility or significant porting effort precludes incremental adoption altogether. In this dissertation, we focus on the development of a communication model that explicitly acknowledges the context of the conversation and describes (much of) modern communications. We highlight how the communication stack should be able to discover, interact with and use available resources to compose richer communication constructs. The model is able to do so by using session, flow and endpoint abstractions to describe communications between two or more endpoints. These abstractions provide means to the application developers for setting up and manipulating constructs, while the ability to recognize change in the operating context and reconfigure the constructs allows applications to adapt to the changing requirements. The model considers two or more participants to be involved in the conversation and thus enables most modern communication patterns, which is in contrast with the well-established two-participant model. Our contributions also include an implementation of a framework that realizes such communication methods and enables future innovation. We substantiate our claims by demonstrating case studies where we use the proposed abstractions to highlight the gains. We also show how the proposed model may be implemented in a backwards compatible manner, such that it does not break legacy applications, network stacks, or middleboxes in the network infrastructure. We also present use cases to substantiate our claims about backwards compatibility. This establishes that incremental evolution is possible. We highlight the benefits of context awareness in setting up complex communication constructs by presenting use cases and their evaluation. Finally, we show how the communication model may open the door for new and richer communication patterns.
- Doctoral Dissertations 
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