Washington University helps found consortium to advance Internet of the future​​​

Washington University in St. Louis has helped to establish a new consortium of U.S. universities and leading technology companies designed to promote development and adoption of Named Data Networking, a new Internet protocol architecture to increase network security, accommodate growing bandwidth requirements and simplify the creation of increasingly sophisticated applications.

The National Science Foundation has funded the Named Data Networking (NDN) project since 2010. In addition to Washington University in St. Louis, other founding academic members include the University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego; Colorado State University; University of Arizona; University of Memphis; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and the University of Michigan.

Among the industry partners planning to participate in the consortium are Verisign, Cisco Systems and Panasonic. They will be joined by international academic partners Anyang University in Korea, Tongji University and Tsinghua University in China, the University of Basel in Switzerland and Waseda University in Japan.


Patrick Crowley, PhD, associate professor of computer science & engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, is principal investigator on the NDN project and is heading Washington University’s participation in the consortium.

“We are leading the effort to develop and demonstrate scalable NDN forwarding technologies,” Crowley said. “These technologies represent the breakthroughs needed to develop large-scale, commercial-grade networking equipment for NDN. In addition, we operate and manage the global NDN testbed, which is an experimental network based on the NDN protocol that links together universities in the U.S., Europe and Asia.”

Crowley said the commercial partners joining the NDN consortium have a high degree of interest in the scalable NDN forwarding technologies and the global NDN testbed.

Named Data Networking addresses the architectural mismatch between the current Internet architecture, known as Internet protocol (IP), and the way that it is primarily used. That mismatch is how problems, such as hacking and other security breaches, occur, Crowley said.

“We have an opportunity to really push forward the use of NDN to solve important problems in domains where today’s Internet technology doesn’t do a great job,” Crowley said. “On the health-care side, that’s mostly around maintaining the balance between sharing information and protecting privacy at the same time. That is very difficult for Internet protocols (IP) to handle, but something at which NDN excels.”

For example, Named Data Networking can tell if the data on a bank web page that a person is viewing was truly produced and signed by one’s bank, while IP cannot, Crowley said.

The NDN team is developing a new fundamental architecture to replace the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite, the underlying approach to all communication over the Internet. NDN’s set of protocols will leverage 30 years of empirical evidence of what has worked and what has not to adapt to changes in the complexity of information that is transmitted over the Internet and simplify the foundation for development of mobile platforms, smart cars, the Internet of Things and applications yet to be devised.

Since 2010, NDN has received more than $13.5 million in funding from NSF’s Future Internet Architecture program, including a grant of $5 million announced in May.

“Collaboration with industry is an important step toward bringing Future Internet Architectures out of the laboratory and into the real world,” said Darleen Fisher, the NSF program officer who oversees the Future Internet Architectures program supporting NDN.

The consortium aims to generate a vibrant ecosystem of research and experimentation around NDN, preserve and promote the openness of the core NDN architecture, and organize community meetings, workshops and other activities. It is being introduced Sept. 4-5 at the first NDN Community Meeting at UCLA.

NDN is led by Lixia Zhang, PhD, UCLA Professor and Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Computer Science, and Van Jacobson, Internet Hall of Fame inductee and UCLA adjunct professor.

“NDN has built significant momentum through a commitment to an open approach that aims to limit proprietary intellectual property claims on core elements of the architecture,” Zhang said. “This has spurred substantial interest from both academia and industry.

“Our goal with the consortium is to accelerate the development of architecture that will lift the Internet from its origins as a messaging and information tool and better prepare it for the wide-ranging uses it has today and will have tomorrow.”

The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security. With 91 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, 750 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.
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