Section: Scientific Foundations

Stochastic modeling

The scientific foundations of our modeling activities are composed of stochastic processes theory and, in particular, Markov processes, queuing theory, stochastic graphs theory, etc. The objectives are either to develop numerical solutions, or analytical ones, or possibly discrete event simulation or Monte Carlo (and Quasi-Monte Carlo) techniques. We are always interested in models' evaluation techniques for dependability and performability analysis, both in static (network reliability) and dynamic contexts (depending on the fact that time plays an explicit role in the analysis or not). We look at systems from the classical so-called call level, leading to standard models (for instance, queues or networks of queues) and also at the burst level, leading to fluid models.

In recent years, our work on the design of the topologies of WANs led us to optimization techniques, in particular in the case of very large optimization problems, usually formulated in terms of graphs. The associated methods we are interested in are composed of simulated annealing, genetic algorithms, TABU search, etc. For the time being, we have obtained our best results with GRASP techniques.

Network pricing is a good example of a multi-disciplinary research activity half-way between applied mathematics, economy and networking, centered on stochastic modeling issues. Indeed, the Internet is facing a tremendous increase of its traffic volume. As a consequence, real users complain that large data transfers take too long, without any possibility to improve this by themselves (by paying more, for instance). A possible solution to cope with congestion is to increase the link capacities; however, many authors consider that this is not a viable solution as the network must respond to an increasing demand (and experience has shown that demand of bandwidth has always been ahead of supply), especially now that the Internet is becoming a commercial network. Furthermore, incentives for a fair utilization between customers are not included in the current Internet. For these reasons, it has been suggested that the current flat-rate fees, where customers pay a subscription and obtain an unlimited usage, should be replaced by usage-based fees. Besides, the future Internet will carry heterogeneous flows such as video, voice, email, web, file transfers and remote login among others. Each of these applications requires a different level of QoS: for example, video needs very small delays and packet losses, voice requires small delays but can afford some packet losses, email can afford delay (within a given bound) while file transfer needs a good average throughput and remote login requires small round-trip times. Some pricing incentives should exist so that each user does not always choose the best QoS for her application and so that the final result is a fair utilization of the bandwidth. On the other hand, we need to be aware of the trade-off between engineering efficiency and economic efficiency; for example, traffic measurements can help in improving the management of the network but is a costly option. These are some of the various aspects often present in the pricing problems we address in our work. More recently, we have switched to the more general field of network economics, dealing with the economic behavior of users, service providers and content providers, as well as their relations.