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Information-Centric Networking

Document Charter Information-Centric Networking RG (icnrg)
Title Information-Centric Networking
Last updated 2014-11-13
State Approved
RG State Active
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Distributing and manipulating named information is a major application in the
Internet today. In addition to web-based content distribution, other
distribution technologies (such as P2P and CDN) have emerged and are promoting
a communication model of accessing data by name, regardless of origin server

In order to respond to increasing traffic volume in the current Internet for
applications such as mobile video and cloud computing, a set of disparate
technologies and distribution services are employed that employ caching,
replication and content distribution in different specific ways. These
approaches are currently deployed in separate silos – different CDN providers
and P2P applications rely on proprietary distribution technologies. It is not
possible to uniquely and securely identify named information independently of
the distribution channel; and the different distribution approaches are
typically implemented as an overlay, leading to unnecessary inefficiency.

Information-centric networking (ICN) is an approach to evolve the Internet
infrastructure to directly support this use by introducing uniquely named data
as a core Internet principle. Data becomes independent from location,
application, storage, and means of transportation, enabling in-network caching
and replication. The expected benefits are improved efficiency, better
scalability with respect to information/bandwidth demand and better robustness
in challenging communication scenarios. These concepts are known under
different terms, including but not limited to: Network of Information (NetInf),
Named Data Networking (NDN) and Publish/Subscribe Networking.

ICN concepts can be applied to different layers of the protocol stack:
name-based data access can be implemented on top of the existing IP
infrastructure, e.g., by providing resource naming, ubiquitous caching and
corresponding transport services, or it can be seen as a packet-level
internetworking technology that would cause fundamental changes to Internet
routing and forwarding. In summary, ICN is expected to evolve the Internet
architecture at different layers.

Research Challenges

The research challenges for ICN include:

* Naming schemes for ICN, including scalable name resolution for flat names

* Scalable routing schemes

* Congestion control, QoS approaches, and caching strategies

* Metrics that make it possible to evaluate ICN implementations in a consistent

* Security and privacy, including scoping of information objects and access
control to them

* Application/application-protocol design and APIs

* Business, legal and regulatory frameworks

Moving the focus from nodes to information objects raises scalability issues to
a new level. Currently, the Internet is addressing on the order of 10^9 nodes,
whereas the number of addressable ICN objects is expected to be several orders
of magnitude higher. Name-based routing and name resolution have to be designed
to scale accordingly, also considering mobility support and disruption
tolerance. This is related to the question how objects are actually named,
e.g., using flat labels with name/content integrity or more structured,
possibly aggregatable names.

Accessing copies of named content enables new data transport concepts, such as
receiver-oriented (pull-based) transport protocols. Caches in the network may
play an active role in transport sessions, enabling shorter feedback loops and
specific transport protocol features in challenged networks, quite different
from end-to-end transport as in TCP today. Leveraging the existence of multiple
copies of each object enables new transport strategies, such as parallel
interaction with multiple caches. ICN may provide opportunities for better
cache coordination and global management of the storage resources of multiple
caches. On the other hand, once a named data object exists in multiple caches,
consistent and coherent update semantics and supporting protocols have to be
defined, dealing with, e.g., multiple writers updating a named object at the
time when only connected via a challenged network.

With ICN, new security models are needed. Today’s host-centric trust model -
retrieving data from a trusted server via a secure connection - no longer
applies. Instead, security/trust/identity functions are bound to the
information objects themselves, employing signed objects and and ensuring
name-data integrity. Moreover, not all objects will be universally accessible,
requiring authorization and scoping mechanisms.

The ICN paradigm is also expected to require new interfaces for applications to
interact with the network. For example, a new API should let application
developers take advantage of location-independent naming, caching, and
multi-access functionality in ICN.

It is expected that ICN will require changes to the business, legal and
regulatory landscape. Examples include changes to how peering agreements are
made in a network that heavily relies on caching, or compensation schemes for
user nodes contributing cache space, bandwidth and/or battery for participating
in delivery of objects to third parties. The caching of objects also has
implications on how the legal framework deals with caching objects in transit:
are they regarded as being in the user’s possession with respect to copyright
and/or other legal violations?

An ICN approach potentially has better energy efficiency than existing
approaches, because data is transported, on average, over shorter distances.
While more cache storage has to be powered in the network, even that might be
energy-efficient, because the cooling load can be better distributed to more,
but smaller installations. ICN has the potential to improve relevant metrics
like invested energy per user-perceived latency.

Finally, deploying new ICN technology requires a well defined migration path
from today’s networking technologies, avoiding any forklift upgrades or flag
days. Migration and interworking possibilities are also required to foster
large-scale experiments and thorough evaluation of ICN concepts and specific
concrete approaches. The development of corresponding testbeds and
experimentation facilities is potentially an important activity area of the

ICNRG Objectives

The main objective of the ICNRG is to couple ongoing ICN research in the above
areas with solutions that are relevant for evolving the Internet at large.

The ICNRG will produce a document that provides guidelines for experimental
activities in the area of ICN so that different, alternative solutions can be
compared consistently, and information sharing accomplished for experimental

The ICNRG will initiate discussions about the desirable interfaces/APIs to an
ICN, as relevant from, e.g. the perspective the application layer and from
network management.

Specifically, the ICNRG is focusing on the following short-term goals:

* To produce a document that provides a survey of different approaches and

* To produce a document that describes the ICN problem statement, the main
concepts and research challenges in depth

* To define reference baseline scenarios to enable performance comparisons
between different approaches


The ICNRG provides a forum for the exchange and analysis of ICN research ideas
and proposals; work that is based on implementation experiences is given

The ICNRG uses an open mailing list as the main communication vehicle for the

The group holds regular physical meetings at least once a year in conjunction
with IETF meetings. Additional meetings are held at IETF or other venues, such
as in conjunction with related academic conferences. Information about ICNRG
upcoming meetings and events can be found on the wiki page.

The ICNRG will produce Informational and Experimental RFCs in order to document
the activity of the group and to formalize the outcome of the research topics
carried by the group. In addition, such documentation could become input to
IETF working groups. Attention will be given to avoiding overlaps with existing
IETF work while informing the work with the results of ongoing research.

To focus the work of the ICNRG, a wiki page with currently prioritized work
items will be maintained. Examples of such topics are the initial topics:

* Name resolution and routing scalability, including naming schems; and

* Storage management strategies and corresponding performance optimizations.