Section: Research Program

Traffic and Resource Management

Despite the massive increases in transmission capacity of the last few years, one has every reason to believe that networks will remain durably congested, driven among other factors by the steadily increasing demand for video content, the proliferation of smart devices (i.e., smartphones or laptops with mobile data cards), and the forecasted additional traffic due to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Despite this rapid traffic growth, there is still a rather limited understanding of the features protocols have to support, the characteristics of the traffic being carried and the context where it is generated. There is thus a strong need for smart protocols that transport requested information at the cheapest possible cost on the network as well as provide good quality of service to network subscribers. One particularly new aspect of up-and-coming networks is that networks are now used to not only (i) access information, but also (ii) distributively process information, en-route.

We intend to study these issues at the theoretical and protocol design levels, by elaborating models and analysis of content demands and/or mobility of network subscribers. The resulting hypothesis and designs will be validated through experimentation, simulation, or data trace processing. It is also worth mentioning the provided solutions may bring benefits to different entities in the network: to content owners (if applied at the core of Internet) or to subscribers or network operators (if applied at the edge of the Internet).

At the Internet Core

One important optimization variable consists in content replication: users can access the closest replica of the content they are interested in. Thus the memory resource can be used to create more replicas and reduce the usage of the bandwidth resource. Another interesting arbitrage between resources arises because content is no longer static but rather dynamic. Here are two simple examples: i) a video could be encoded at several resolutions. There is then a choice between pre-recording all possible resolutions, or alternatively synthesizing a lower-resolution version on the fly from a higher resolution version when a request arises. ii) A user requests the result of a calculation, say the average temperature in a building; this can either be kept in memory, or recomputed each time such a query arises. Optimizing the joint use of all three resources, namely bandwidth, memory, computation, is a complex task. Content Delivery Network companies such as Akamai or Limelight have worked on the memory/bandwidth trade-off for some years, but as we will explain more can be done on this. On the other hand optimizing the memory/computation trade-off has received far less attention. We aim to characterize the best possible content replication strategies by leveraging fine-grained prediction of i) users' future requests, and ii) wireless channels' future bandwidth fluctuations. In the past these two determining inputs have only been considered at a coarse-grained, aggregate level. It is important to assess how much bandwidth saving can be had by conducting finer-grained prediction. We are developing light-weight protocols for conducting these predictions and automatically instantiating the corresponding optimal replication policies. We are also investigating generic protocols for automatically trading replication for computation, focusing initially on the above video transcoding scenario.

At the Internet Edge

Cellular and wireless data networks are increasingly relied upon to provide users with Internet access on devices such as smartphones, laptops or tablets. In particular, the proliferation of handheld devices equipped with multiple advanced capabilities (e.g., significant CPU and memory capacities, cameras, voice to text, text to voice, GPS, sensors, wireless communication) has catalyzed a fundamental change in the way people are connected, communicate, generate and exchange data. In this evolving network environment, users' social relations, opportunistic resource availability, and proximity between users' devices are significantly shaping the use and design of future networking protocols.

One consequence of these changes is that mobile data traffic has recently experienced a staggering growth in volume: Cisco has recently foreseen that the mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold within 2016, in front of a mere 9-fold increase in connection speeds. Hence, one can observe today that the inherently centralized and terminal-centric communication paradigm of currently deployed cellular networks cannot cope with the increased traffic demand generated by smartphone users. This mismatch is likely to last because (1) forecasted mobile data traffic demand outgrows the capabilities of planned cellular technological advances such as 4G or LTE, and (2) there is strong skepticism about possible further improvements brought by 5G technology.

Congestion at the Internet's edge is thus here to stay. Solutions to this problem relates to: densify the infrastructure, opportunistically forward data among neighbors wireless devices, to offload data to alternate networks, or to bring content from the Internet closer to the subscribers. Our recent work on leveraging user mobility patterns, contact and inter-contact patterns, or content demand patterns constitute a starting point to these challenges. The projected increase of mobile data traffic demand pushes towards additional complementary offloading methods. Novel mechanisms are thus needed, which must fit both the new context that Internet users experience now, and their forecasted demands. In this realm, we will focus on new approaches leveraging ultra-distributed, user-centric approaches over IP.