Exploring Future Internet Architectures

UCLA and Washington University in St. Louis recently announced the launch of the Named Data Networking (NDN) Consortium, a new forum for collaboration among university and industry researchers, including Verisign, on one candidate next-generation information-centric architecture for the internet.

Verisign Labs has been collaborating with UCLA Professor Lixia Zhang, one of the consortium’s co-leaders, on this future-directed design as part our university research program for some time. The consortium launch is a natural next step in facilitating this research and its eventual application.

Van Jacobson, an Internet Hall of Fame member and the other co-leader of the NDN Consortium, surveyed developments in this area in his October 2012 talk in the Verisign Labs Distinguished Speaker Series titled, “The Future of the Internet? Content-Centric Networking.

As I stated in my summary of the talk, content-centric networking and related research areas under the heading of information-centric networking and NDN bring internet protocols up to date to match the way many of us already are using the internet. As Van noted, when people want to access content over the internet– for instance the recording of his talk – they typically reference a URL, for instance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zOLrQJ5kbU.

Using well established protocols, the URL is parsed into a domain name, which is resolved into IP addresses, which results in a server connection, which then leads to the content.

From the user’s point of view, the step of connecting to a particular server often isn’t as important as connecting to the content that the server hosts – in this, the video. The URL with its domain name and path specify which video to go to; the underlying protocols take the user there.

NDN recognizes this fundamental role of name-to-content mapping and explores new ways to make the mapping more efficient. Such a model may have advantages in use cases such as the Internet of Things, where an application may be more interested in connecting to information about a “thing” – for instance the current temperature – than to the thing itself, i.e., a particular thermostat.

In some cases, reliable, confident connections to servers are what will matter, and in other cases, reliable, confident information, independent of where it’s served, will matter more.

But in either situation, names are the starting point. As we’ve outlined in our research on the topic, the Domain Name System offers an enduring platform for managing names at the kind of scale that the NDN architecture will have to grow to in order to be realized in practice. And even in a world with both TCP/IP and NDN-based exchanges, domain names will continue to have value as online identifiers of users and organizations. As Janna Lam of IPMirror stated at WHD.asia (where I also presented on a range of DNS innovations), “Your online brand starts with a domain name.

NDN and information-centric networking more generally can thus be viewed as another place where domain names and DNS can be applied, as well as another possible way to interact with the DNS in the future, as I pointed out in my WHD.asia talk.

DNS-based building blocks such as DNS-Based Authentication of Named Entities (DANE) show promise as a way of mapping names to content, by providing a reliable way to connect domain names with certificates and public keys, so that those credentials can be discovered and distributed, in association with a well-managed domain name. Given the key, a relying party can then verify that other content –indeed associated with the domain name – or in the example given, that the temperature is an authentic reading.

The internet started as a result of great research, and will continue to mature through efforts like NDN.  The exploration of possible futures is one of the commitments we’ve made at Verisign Labs to ensure that we also understand today’s opportunities as well as we can. We’re grateful to UCLA and the other university and industry participants for their investment in NDN and look forward to many further collaborations.


Burt Kaliski

Dr. Burt Kaliski Jr., Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, leads Verisign’s long-term research program. Through the program’s innovation initiatives, the CTO organization, in collaboration with business and technology leaders across the company, explores emerging technologies, assesses their impact on the company’s business, prototypes and evaluates new concepts, and recommends new strategies and solutions. Burt is also responsible for... Read More →