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An Introduction to Semantic Networking

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (individual)
Authors Adrian Farrel , Daniel King
Last updated 2022-10-21
Replaces draft-farrel-irtf-introduction-to-semantic-routing
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RTGWG                                                          A. Farrel
Internet-Draft                                        Old Dog Consulting
Intended status: Informational                                   D. King
Expires: 24 April 2023                              Lancaster University
                                                         21 October 2022

                 An Introduction to Semantic Networking


   Many proposals have been made to add semantics to IP packets by
   placing additional information in existing fields, by adding
   semantics to IP addresses themselves, or by adding fields.  The
   intent is to facilitate enhanced routing/forwarding decisions based
   on these additional semantics to provide differentiated forwarding
   paths for different packet flows distinct from simple shortest path
   first routing.  The process is defined as Semantic Networking.

   This document provides a brief introduction to Semantic Networking.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on 24 April 2023.

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   Copyright (c) 2022 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights

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   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Revised BSD License text as
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   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Objectives and Scope  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Approaches to Semantic Networking . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.1.  Packet and Service Routing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   4.  Semantic Networking Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     4.1.  Address Space Partitioning  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     4.2.  Prefix-based Contextual Address Usage . . . . . . . . . .   9
     4.3.  Semantic Addressing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     4.4.  Flow Marking  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.5.  Extended Lookup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.6.  Semantic Field Overloading  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.7.  IPv6 Extension Headers  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.8.  New Extensions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   5.  Architectural Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     5.1.  Isolated Domains  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     5.2.  Bridged Domains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     5.3.  Semantic Prefix Domains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   6.  A Brief Discussion of What Constitutes Routing  . . . . . . .  12
     6.1.  Application Layer Routing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     6.2.  Higher-Layer Path Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     6.3.  Transport Layer Routing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.4.  Tunnel-Based Routing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.5.  Inter-Domain Routing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     6.6.  Service Function Chaining . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     6.7.  Network Layer Traffic Engineering Techniques  . . . . . .  15
     6.8.  Semantic Networking in the Network Layer  . . . . . . . .  16
     6.9.  Computation In The Network and Semantic Networking  . . .  16
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
   8.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   9.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   10. Contributors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   11. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     11.1.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
     11.2.  URL References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23

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1.  Introduction

   Historically, the meaning of an IP address has been to identify an
   interface on a network device or a network to which a host is
   attached [RFC0814].  Network routing protocols were initially
   designed to determine paths through a network toward destination
   addresses so that IP packets with a common destination address
   converged on that destination.  Anycast and multicast addresses were
   also defined (e.g., Section 2.6.1 of [RFC4291]), and some of these
   new address semantics necessitated variations to the routing
   protocols (e.g., [RFC6992]), and in some cases the development of new
   routing protocols (e.g., Protocol Independent Multicast - Sparse Mode

   Over time, routing decisions were enhanced to route packets according
   to additional information carried within the packets and dependent on
   policy coded in, configured at, or signaled to the routers.  Perhaps
   the most obvious example is Equal-Cost Multipath (ECMP) where a
   router makes a consistent choice for forwarding packets over a number
   of parallel links or paths based on the values of a set of fields in
   the packet header.  Another example is Constraint-based Shortest Path
   First (CSPF) where additional constraints are considered when
   performing route computation and selection.

   Upper-layer applications are placing increasingly sophisticated
   demands on the network for better quality, more predictability, and
   increased reliability.  Some of these applications are futuristic
   predictions (for example, haptic augmented reality multiplayer 3D
   worlds), some are new ideas on the threshold of roll-out (such as
   holographic conferencing), and many are rapidly developing sectors
   with established revenue streams (such as multiplayer immersive

   At the same time, lower-layer network technologies are advancing
   rapidly providing increased bandwidth to the home and to mobile hand-
   held devices.  These advances create an environment that enables the
   potential of advanced applications being run by very many end-users.
   This coincides with a massive growth in end-to-end communications
   that include machines and services, and to introduce routing and
   addressing behaviors to a particular use case and set of requirements
   applied within a limited region or domain of the Internet.  Examples
   of these three developments include 5G, predicted wireless
   evolutions, IoT and vehicular connectivity, space-terrestrial
   communication, industrial networks, cloud computing, service function
   chaining and network functions virtualization, digital twins, and
   data-centric data brokerage platforms.

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   Despite this plurality of communication scenarios, IP-based
   addressing and network layer routing have remained focused on
   identifying locations of communication (i.e., "where") and
   determining paths between those locations with or without specific
   constraints (i.e., "how-to-get-there" as per [IEN23]).  This has
   previously depended on higher-layer capabilities (e.g., for name-to-
   location resolution) to support some of these communication
   scenarios, but that approach introduces latency and dependencies
   (e.g., changing locator assignments may depend on the capabilities of
   the upper-layer capability that are outside the core addressing and
   routing system).  Furthermore, multi-layer lookups and interactions
   may impact the efficacy of some of the communication scenarios
   mentioned here, particularly those that employ different routing and
   addressing approaches beyond just locators.

   "Semantic Networking" places the support for advanced routing,
   forwarding, and location functions directly at the packet routing/
   forwarding layer, such as through extensions to the identification
   properties of addresses (so that the address indicates more than just
   the network location) or through performing routing functions on an
   extended set of inputs (for example, other fields carried in packet
   headers).  Such an approach should preserve the Internet architecture
   as it is today while enabling additional routing function.

   This document provides a brief introduction to Semantic Networking
   and outlines the possible approaches that might be taken.  A separate
   document ([I-D.king-irtf-semantic-routing-survey]) makes a start at a
   survey of pre-existing work in this area, while
   [I-D.king-rtgwg-challenges-in-routing] sets out some of the issues
   that should be considered when researching, developing, or proposing
   a routing scheme for Semantic Networking.

2.  Objectives and Scope

   As with all advances in Internet protocols, Semantic Networking may
   be considered for Internet-wide deployment or may be restricted
   (possibly only initially) to well-defined and contained networks
   referred to as "limited domains" (see [RFC8799]).  The information
   used for Semantic Networking may be opaque within the network (in
   other words, the additional information is not required to be parsed
   by the routers and might not even be visible to them), may be
   transparent (so that routers may see the information, but their
   processing does not need to be changed to accommodate the information
   or its encoding), or may be active (so that Semantic Networking is
   fully enabled).

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   When building an end-to-end path across multiple domains, Semantic
   Networking may select a path in one domain that is not consistent
   with the paths selected in other domains in terms of constructing the
   "best" end-to-end path.  That is, the Semantic Networking decisions
   within a domain are potentially isolated from knowledge about the
   other domains.

   In any case, concern and consideration must be coexistence with, and
   backward compatibility to, existing routing and addressing schemes
   that are widely deployed.

   Further understanding of the scope of Semantic Networking applied to
   the routing of packets at the network layer may be gained by reading
   Section 6 to see how various other concepts of routing are out of
   scope of this work.

   A strategic objective of Semantic Networking, and associated semantic
   enhancements, is to enable Service Providers to modify the default
   forwarding behaviour to be based on other information present in the
   packet and policy configured or dynamically programmed into the
   routers and devices.  This is aimed to cause new and alternative path
   processing by routers, including:

   *  Determinism of quality of delivery in terms of throughput,
      latency, jitter, and drop precedence.

   *  Determinism of resilience in terms of survival of network failures
      and delivery degradation.

   *  Determinism of routing performance in terms of the volume of data
      that has to be exchanged both to establish and to maintain the
      routing tables.

   *  Deployability in terms of configuration, training, development of
      new hardware/software, and interaction with the pre-existing
      network technologies and uses.

   *  Efficiency of manageability in terms of:

      1.  diagnostic management

      2.  management of Service KPIs with/without guarantees

      3.  dynamic and controlled instantiation of management information
          in the packets.

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   Issues of security and privacy have been largely overlooked within
   the routing systems.  However, there is increasing concern that
   attacks on routing systems can not only be disruptive (for example,
   causing traffic to be dropped), but may cause traffic to be routed
   via inspection points that can breach the security or privacy of the
   payloads (e.g., BGP hijack attacks).  While Semantic Networking might
   offer tools for increasing security and privacy, it is possible that
   Semantic Networking and the additional information that may be
   carried in packets to enable Semantic Networking may provide vectors
   for attacks or compromise privacy.  This must be examined by any
   Semantic Networking proposals.  For example, means to control
   entities that are entitled to access supplied Semantic Networking
   information should be considered.

3.  Approaches to Semantic Networking

   Typically, in an IP-based network packets are forwarded using the
   least-cost path to the destination IP address.  Service Providers may
   also use techniques to modify the default forwarding behavior based
   on other information present in the packet and configured or
   programmed into the routers.  These mechanisms, sometimes called
   Semantic Networking techniques include "Preferential Routing",
   "Policy-based Routing", and "Flow Steering".

   Examples of existing Semantic Networking usage in IP-based networks
   include the following.

   *  Using addresses to identify different device types so that their
      traffic may be handled differently [SEMANTICRTG].

   *  Expressing how a packet should be handled, prioritized, or
      allocated network resources as it is forwarded through the network

   *  Deriving IP addresses from the lower layer identifiers and using
      addresses depending on the underlying connectivity (for example,

   *  Building IP addresses from the transport layer identifiers (for
      example, [RFC7597]).

   *  Indicating the application or network function on a destination
      device or at a specific location, or enable Service Function
      Chaining (SFC) [RFC7665].

   *  Providing semantics specific to mobile networks so that a user or
      device may move through the network without disruption to their
      service [CONTENT-RTG-MOBILEref].

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   *  Enabling optimized multicast traffic distribution by encoding
      multicast tree and replication instructions within addresses

   *  Content-based routing (CBR), forwarding of the packet based on
      message content rather than the destination addresses

   *  Identifying hierarchical connectivity so that routing can be
      simplified [EIBPref].

   *  Providing geographic location information within addresses

   *  Using cryptographic algorithms to mask the identity of the source
      or destination, masking routing tables within the domain, while
      still enabling packet forwarding across the network

   A more comprehensive list of existing implementations and research
   projects can be found in [I-D.king-irtf-semantic-routing-survey].

   Semantic Networking, operates to forward packets dependent on
   information carried in the packets and rules present in the routers.
   Those rules could be any combination of:

   *  Built into the routers

   *  Configured network-wide in the routers

   *  Configured per-router in a relatively static way

   *  Programmed to the routers in a dynamic way, for example, through
      software defined networking (SDN)

   *  Distributed dynamically through the network using routing or
      signalling protocols

   Semantic Networking will also require information about network state
   and capabilities just as existing shortest path first routing systems
   do.  That may require information (such as link delays or other
   qualitative attributes) to be collected by network nodes and
   distributed between routers by routing protocols.  Alternatively,
   this information could be collected (centrally) by a set of network
   controllers and used to derive the rules installed in the routers.

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   Forwarding by a router is based on a look-up that also considers the
   Semantic Networking information carried in the packet (see Section 4)
   and forwarding instructions programmed into the forwarding element.
   Some Semantic Networking proposals may generate the semantic
   information (e.g., a hash) rather than using information that is
   directly extracted from the packet.  The actions to perform may be
   derived by the router based on the rules and information that the
   router has collected, or may be programmed directly from the network

3.1.  Packet and Service Routing

   Routing is the process of selecting a path for traffic in a network
   or between or across multiple networks.  For example, IP routing uses
   IP addresses for source and destination identification and is
   typically used for packet networks, such as the Internet.  IP routing
   assumes that network addresses are structured and facilitates routing
   entries in a routing table entry to represent a group of IP-capable

   While service routing and information-centric networking (ICN) can
   operate directly on top of layer 2 protocols (for example,
   [RFC9139]), in the context of this document, we are concerned with
   the function of service routing and ICN in IP networks.  Like any new
   spanning-layer style protocol, deployment considerations for ICN on
   the Internet make tunneling through IP a required part of any co-
   existence or transition.  The approach taken in this case, is to
   create an overlay layer on top of the IP network.  Control of the
   overlay necessitates augmentation of existing routing mechanisms, or
   entirely new discovery, propagation and resource management protocols
   and procedures.

   By contrast, explicit service-based IP routing
   [I-D.jiang-service-oriented-ip] abstracts the service actions that
   the network can provide into a number of classes called Service
   Action Types (SATs).  Each packet is marked with the relevant SAT,
   and the packets are routed to the next available SAT provider (not
   the destination IP address).  In this approach, a distinct
   encapsulation is needed and may carry native IP packets as payload,
   while transition experiments may utilize an overlay on top of IP.

   IP Routing and service routing are not the same thing.

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4.  Semantic Networking Information

   The subsections below describe some of the common techniques to
   enable Semantic Networking in more detail.  The sections are
   unordered and no meaning should be assigned to how one approach is
   presented before another.  They are not a complete list of possible

   The approaches described here have many advantages and disadvantages.
   The purpose here is not to determine which approach is best or most
   appropriate, and so those advantages and disadvantages are not
   discussed.  The reader will inevitably have a preference and see

4.1.  Address Space Partitioning

   In some cases, an address prefix is assigned a special purpose and
   meaning.  When such an address appears in the packet's address field,
   a router can know from the prefix that particular routing/forwarding
   actions are required.  An example of this approach is seen in
   multicast addressing.  Another example is the handling of anycast in
   IPv6 where the nodes to which the address is assigned must be
   explicitly configured to know that it is an anycast address

4.2.  Prefix-based Contextual Address Usage

   The owner of a prefix to use the low-order bits of an address for
   their own purposes.

   The semantics of such an approach might be coordinated between prefix
   owners, or could be indicated through information that is part of the
   encoding, and is standardized.  An example of such approach is in
   IPv4/IPv6 Translators [RFC6052].

4.3.  Semantic Addressing

   Semantic Addressing is a term applied to any approach that adds
   semantics to IP addresses.  This includes the mechanisms described in
   Section 4.1 and Section 4.2.  Other Semantic Addressing proposals
   suggest variable address lengths, hierarchical addresses, or a
   structure to addresses so that they can carry additional information
   in a common way.

   In any case, Semantic Addressing that intends to facilitate routing
   decisions is based solely on the address and without the need to find
   and process information carried in other fields within the packets.

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   Note that not all Semantic Addressing schemes exist to facilitate
   routing (for example, content addressing where the interface ID of
   the address identifies a chunk of the content to be retrieved), but
   such schemes are naturally out of scope of this document.

4.4.  Flow Marking

   Flow marking is a way of indicating, in a specific field in the
   packet header, the treatment that the packet should receive in the
   network.  In IPv4 the six-bit DSCP field is commonly used for this
   purpose.  In IPv6, while the Traffic Class field could be used, it is
   generally recommended that the Flow Label field should serve this and
   a more general purpose.

4.5.  Extended Lookup

   Routers may also examine fields in the packet other than those in the
   IP header.  For example, many router processes may look at the "five-
   tuple" consisting of:

   *  source address

   *  destination address

   *  next protocol

   *  transport protocol source port

   *  transport protocol destination port

4.6.  Semantic Field Overloading

   "Overloading" is a term applied to placing additional semantics on
   the contents of a field beyond how it is specified.  This is
   relatively hard to do in an IPv6 header because the number of fields
   is small, and all fields have specific meanings that are needed in
   all cases.  In IPv4 there may be more opportunity to use some fields
   in very controlled situations to carry additional semantics that can
   be used for Semantic Networking.

4.7.  IPv6 Extension Headers

   IPv6 defines extension headers explicitly for carrying information
   that may be used by routers along the path.  This information can be
   used to instruct all routers, only the router indicated by the
   destination address, or by the ultimate destination of the packet.

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   Extension headers may carry any information to enable Semantic

4.8.  New Extensions

   Another approach is to define a new protocol extension to carry
   information on which Semantic Networking can be performed.  Such an
   extension could be in the form of a new extension header (see
   Section 4.7) or as a new shim encapsulation (e.g., [RFC7665]).

5.  Architectural Considerations

   Some Semantic Networking proposals are intended to be deployed in
   limited domains [RFC8799] (networks) that are IP-based, while other
   proposals are intended for use across the Internet.  The impact that
   the proposals have on routing systems may require clean-slate
   solutions, hybrid solutions, extensions to existing routing
   protocols, or potentially no changes at all.

   Semantic data may be applied in several ways to integrate with
   existing routing architectures.  The most obvious is to build an
   overlay such that IP is used only to route packets between network
   nodes that utilize the semantics at a higher layer.  An overlay may
   be achieved in a higher protocol layer, or may be performed using
   tunneling techniques (such as IP-in-IP [RFC1853]) to traverse the
   areas of the IP network that cannot parse additional semantics
   thereby joining together those nodes that use the semantic data.

   The application of semantics may also be constrained to within a
   limited domain.  In some cases, such a domain will use IP, but be
   disconnected from Internet (see Section 5.1).  In other cases,
   traffic from within the domain is exchanged with other domains that
   are connected together across an IP-based network using tunnels or
   via application gateways (see Section 5.2).  And in still another
   case traffic from the domain is routed across the Internet to other
   nodes and this requires backward-compatible routing approaches (see
   Section 5.3).

5.1.  Isolated Domains

   Some IP network domains are entirely isolated from the Internet and
   other IP-based networks.  In these cases, there is no risk to
   external networks from any Semantic Networking schemes carried out
   within the domain.

   Many approaches in isolated domains will utilize environment-specific
   routing protocols.  For example, those suited to constrained
   environments (for IoT) or mobile environments (for autonomous

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   vehicles).  Such routing protocols can be optimized for the exchange
   of information specific to Semantic Networking.  However, gateways to
   provide external connectivity are usually deployed in such networks.
   Appropriate means should be supported in these means to prevent
   leaking semantic information beyond the boundaries of these domains.

5.2.  Bridged Domains

   In some deployments, it will be desirable to connect a number of
   isolated domains to build a larger network.  These domains may be
   connected (or bridged) over an IP network or even over the Internet.

   Ideally, the function of the bridged domains should not be impeded by
   how they are connected, and the operation of the IP network providing
   the connectivity should not be compromised by the act of carrying
   traffic between the domains.  This can generally be achieved by
   tunneling the packets between domains using any tunneling technique,
   and this will not require the IP network to know about the Semantic
   Networking used by the domains.

   An alternative to tunneling is achieved using gateway functionality
   where packets from a domain are mapped at the domain boundary to
   produce regular IP packets that are sent across the IP network to the
   boundary of the destination domain where they are mapped back into
   packets for use within that domain.

5.3.  Semantic Prefix Domains

   A semantic prefix domain [I-D.jiang-semantic-prefix] is a portion of
   the Internet over which a consistent set of semantic-based policies
   are administered in a coordinated fashion.  This is achieved by
   assigning a routable address prefix (or a set of prefixes) for use
   with Semantic Addressing and routing so that packets may be routed
   through the regular IP network (or the Internet) using the prefix and
   without encountering or having to use any Semantic Addressing.  Once
   delivered to the semantic prefix domain, a packet can be subjected to
   whatever Semantic Networking is enabled in the domain.

6.  A Brief Discussion of What Constitutes Routing

   This section provides an overview of what is considered as "routing"
   in the scope of this document.  There are many functions in the
   Internet that contain the concept of routing, but not all of them
   apply to the scope of this document which is concerned with routing
   packets at the network layer.  A more thorough catalogue of
   approaches to routing and the applications of Semantic Networking can
   be found in [I-D.king-irtf-semantic-routing-survey].

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6.1.  Application Layer Routing

   Routing in the application layer concerns the choice of application-
   level components that are distributed across the network.  The choice
   may be dependent on the services being delivered, knowledge about the
   locations in the network that can provide the services, knowledge of
   the network capabilities, and preferences expressed by an application
   or user.  In this sense, the routing choice consists of constructing
   an "application layer path" and may be performed at the head end or
   along the path.  Packets are carried between components across the
   underlying network, using normal transport and network layer
   protocols that may, themselves, involve routing.  Thus, application
   layer routing is concerned with selecting a series of components
   based on the potential to carry traffic between them, but without
   concern for how the packets are routed within the network.

   Application layer routing may be used in concepts such as Content
   Distribution Networking (CDN) and computation in the network (COIN)
   (see Section 6.9).

   The ALTO architecture and protocol [RFC7285] is intended to allow the
   network to answer queries about the availability and characteristics
   of paths between application-level components to enable choices to be
   made by providers of function or content about which components to
   select.  This is a server-based approach because it would be
   impractical to scale the network reporting all available paths to all
   destinations to every client, or for the network edge to be able to
   answer queries from their clients.

6.2.  Higher-Layer Path Selection

   There is another high-level path selection scenario that is more
   concerned with selecting outbound paths from the source than in
   determining destinations or next application-layer hops (as described
   in Section 6.1.  For example, consider a mobile phone that is
   connected to Wi-Fi and 5G.  Further, consider that the Wi-Fi network
   is dual-homed to two different ISPs.  This gives an application a
   choice of three different paths depending on the known (or
   advertised) capabilities of the networks.

   This type of scenario is being examined by the Path Aware Networking
   Research Group (PANRG) where, rather than consulting a server to
   supply the most appropriate path, the source host or application
   should learn about the potential paths and pick between them.

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6.3.  Transport Layer Routing

   Some transport layer load balancing schemes and proxy-based
   connection or discovery mechanisms use a mechanism that looks
   somewhat like routing, but exists in the transport layer.  For
   example, section 2.1.1 of [RFC3135] describes how a transport layer
   Performance Enhancing Proxy (PEP) may use a concept called TCP
   spoofing to terminate a TCP connection and initiate a new connection
   to the next proxy on the transport layer path towards the
   destination.  The IP addresses of the packets are rewritten at the
   proxies so that the packets can be routed/forwarded to the next
   proxy, but no change to the underlying routing system is implied, and
   this is not Semantic Networking.

6.4.  Tunnel-Based Routing

   Tunnel-based routing schemes, like those in the transport layer (see
   Section 6.3), are achieved through an overlay.  a tunnel-based scheme
   relies on encapsulating packets so that they can be sent through the
   normal routing and forwarding network for delivery to an interim
   node.  That node decapsulates the packet and then either continues to
   forward the contents or encapsulates the contents in another tunnel.
   Some approaches, such as onion routing in the Tor project (see
   [ONION]) use a scheme of multiply-nested encapsulation, with each
   layer being peeled off at the end of a tunnel.

   The packets in a tunnel-based approach are routed and forwarded in
   the packet network as normal packets and so this approach is not
   Semantic Networking.

6.5.  Inter-Domain Routing

   A lot of effort has been devoted to consideration of end-to-end paths
   for IP traffic across multiple autonomous systems (ASes).  For
   example, the BGP Add-Paths feature [RFC7911] allows the advertisement
   of multiple paths so that a single, "best" path can be determined.
   These approaches, however, are principally concerned with overall
   reachability, and then with selecting the path with the fewest
   transit autonomous systems.  They are less capable of selecting an
   overall least cost path or of considering other traffic engineering
   constraints in the selection of end-to-end paths.  Such path
   computation requires the features outlined in Section 6.7 as
   assembled into an architectural solution in [RFC7926].

   Many approaches have been suggested [RFC6115] for improving inter-
   domain routing performance and scaling using address partitioning
   schemes including tunneling across domains (see also Section 6.4).
   However, routing in this inter-domain scenario is about the selection

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   of the next AS along the path, and possibly a choice of the right AS
   border router (ASBR) to facilitate that route.  This choice of ASBRs
   might be based on additional information carried in the packets so
   could qualify as Semantic Networking, but packets flowing between
   these ASBRs are routed and forwarded within the domains as normal
   packets without the use of Semantic Networking.

6.6.  Service Function Chaining

   Service Function Chaining (SFC) [RFC7665] is applied at the network
   layer to steer packet flows through network functions (such as
   security or load balancing).  A chain of services to be delivered
   (the service function chain) is realized as sequence of service
   instances (the service function path).  Packets are tunneled between
   the service instances using encapsulation so that the end-to-end
   payload packet is unchanged.  A variety of network layer
   encapsulation have been considered including the Network Service
   Header (NSH) [RFC8300], MPLS [RFC8595], and Segment Routing

   The Segment Routing concept of Network Programming [RFC8986], offers
   a similar approach to SFC, but may be more widely applicable.

   The tunneled packets can be freely routed in the network using
   conventional shortest path techniques or the mechanisms described in
   Section 6.7 and Section 6.8, thus this approach is not Semantic

6.7.  Network Layer Traffic Engineering Techniques

   Techniques for achieving packet-level traffic engineering in the
   network layer are described in [I-D.ietf-teas-rfc3272bis].  Traffic
   engineering (TE) is the process of selecting an end-to-end path that
   considers many attributes of metrics of the links in the network in
   order to satisfy a set of constraints or requirements imposed by the
   sender of the traffic.  For example, the sender may want to use only
   secure links, or may know the bandwidth requirements of the flow, or
   may need at least a specific end-to-end latency, or indeed any
   combination of this type of constraint.

   Routing for TE may be performed in advance of sending the traffic
   (for example, by computing a path at the sender or by using a tool
   such as the Path Computation Element (PCE) [RFC4655].  In this case,
   some form of encapsulation is needed to bind the traffic flow to the
   selected route: MPLS or Segment Routing may be used.

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   Alternatively, the network may be tuned through appropriate use of
   routing protocol metrics, routing algorithms, and statically
   configured routes, so that packets will be forwarded along traffic
   engineered paths.

6.8.  Semantic Networking in the Network Layer

   Semantic Networking, as already explained, is about taking routing
   decisions based on "additional" information carried in packets in
   order to provide the behavior and network services most suited to the
   traffic.  This approach builds on the techniques described in
   Section 6.7 but frees up the network to make individual decisions for
   each packet based on changing network conditions as well as the
   information in the packets.

   A raft of potential solutions have been proposed for carrying the
   necessary information in the packets, and it is not the purpose of
   this document to examine them in detail or make suggestions about
   which is better.  The solutions vary from simply using existing
   fields in the IP header (such as the ToS field), or examining fields
   below the IP header (such as the transport ports), through
   "overloading" existing fields in the packet header (such as the
   destination address), all the way to adding new information in an
   additional encapsulation as proposed by the Application-aware
   Networking (APN) effort [].

6.9.  Computation In The Network and Semantic Networking

   The use of semantic enhancements as a key aspect to Semantic
   Networking (as described in this document) links the development of
   Semantic Networking solutions to data plane programmability.  Novel
   approaches to Semantic Networking may inform the evolution of more
   complex in-network operations, aiding specific Semantic Networking
   solutions.  Further, progress in routing protocols (e.g., on multi-
   optimality routing [SOBRINHO]) may be seen as a key input into the
   more general problem within an emerging framework to distribute state
   needed for in-network computing operations, e.g., through utilizing
   insights from routing protocols to distribute routing state for more
   limited routing operations.

   As per its charter, the Computation In The Network (COIN) Research
   Group [COINRG] combines the idea of computing with the
   programmability of the data plane.  Hence, network operations, such
   as those previously used for routing and forwarding, may be key to
   the programmability aspects of "computing in the network" within the
   scope of COIN.  Ultimately, as stated in the COIN charter, "The goal
   is to investigate how to harness and to benefit from this emerging
   disruption to the Internet architecture to improve network and

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   application performance as well as user experience."  From this, we
   can conclude that data plane programmability and its impact on
   existing and emerging areas of communication are key to COIN.

   The COIN charter further states, "COIN specifically will focus on the
   evolution necessary for networking to move beyond packet interception
   as the basis of network operation and into computation."  This
   envisions that data plane programmability is not limited to packet
   interception, but may evolve towards more complex operations on data
   flowing across the network.  The analysis of use cases and the
   identification of key areas of study can drive the understanding of
   what those additional operations may be and how to program them,
   particularly across several participating network elements and at the
   endpoints.  With this, we can conclude that the areas for applying
   COIN ideas will ultimately drive the evolution of COIN technologies
   by identifying emerging requirements and uses for data plane
   programmability, particularly those beyond simple packet processing,
   such as packet forwarding and local buffer management.

   Given the focus on steering traffic between micro-services
   instantiated at computational elements within networks and at
   endpoints, the COIN use cases identify aspects of what is now amed
   Semantic Networking.  Thus Semantic Networking is one possible
   applicability area for COIN.

   Conversely, the availability of emerging data plane programmability
   may enable new capabilities for Semantic Networking.  As a
   distributed problem, Semantic Networking could be enabled by emerging
   programming frameworks that may be developed within the work of COIN,
   possibly leading to new ways of orchestrating and deploying
   distributed routing programs.  Thus, the relationship between
   Semantic Networking and the COIN Research Group can be characterized
   as a symbiotic process of informing and enabling that may benefit
   both work areas.

7.  Security Considerations

   Semantic Networking must give full consideration to the security and
   privacy issues that are introduced by these mechanisms.  Placing
   additional information into packet header fields might reveal details
   of what the packet is for, what function the user is performing, who
   the user is, etc.  Furthermore, in-flight modification of the
   additional information might not directly change the destination of
   the packet, but might change how the packet is handled within the
   network and at the destination.

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   It should also be considered how packet encryption techniques that
   are increasingly popular for end-to-end or edge-to-edge security may
   obscure the semantic information carried in some fields of the packet
   header or found deeper in the packet.  This may render some Semantic
   Networking techniques impractical and may dictate other methods of
   carrying the necessary information to enable Semantic Networking.

8.  IANA Considerations

   This document makes no requests for IANA action.

9.  Acknowledgements

   Thanks to Brian Carpenter, Dave Oran, and Luigi Iannone for helpful
   discussions and clarifications.

10.  Contributors

   Mohamed Boucadair

   Dirk Trossen

11.  References

11.1.  Informative References

              Simsek, I., "On-Demand Blind Packet Forwarding",
              Paper 30th International Telecommunication Networks and
              Applications Conference (ITNAC), 2020, 2020,

              Liu, H. and W. He, "Rich Semantic Content-oriented Routing
              for mobile Ad Hoc Networks", Paper The International
              Conference on Information Networking (ICOIN2014), 2014,
              2014, <>.

   [EIBPref]  Shenoy, N., "Can We Improve Internet Performance? An
              Expedited Internet Bypass Protocol", Presentation 28th
              IEEE International Conference on Network Protocols, 2020,

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              Dasu, T., Kanza, Y., and D. Srivastava, "Geotagging IP
              Packets for Location-Aware Software-Defined Networking in
              the Presence of Virtual Network Functions", Paper 25th ACM
              SIGSPATIAL International Conference on Advances in
              Geographic Information Systems (ACM SIGSPATIAL 2017),
              2017, <

              Farrel, A., "Overview and Principles of Internet Traffic
              Engineering", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-teas-rfc3272bis-21, 11 September 2022,

              Jiang, S., Sun, Q., Farrer, I., Bo, Y., and T. Yang,
              "Analysis of Semantic Embedded IPv6 Address Schemas", Work
              in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-jiang-semantic-prefix-
              06, 15 July 2013, <

              Carpenter, B., Jiang, S., and G. Li, "Service Oriented
              Internet Protocol", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-jiang-service-oriented-ip-03, 14 May 2020,

              King, D. and A. Farrel, "A Survey of Semantic Internet
              Routing Techniques", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-king-irtf-semantic-routing-survey-04, 30 May 2022,

              King, D., Farrel, A., and C. Jacquenet, "Challenges for
              the Internet Routing Systems Introduced by Semantic
              Networking", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-king-
              rtgwg-challenges-in-routing-00, 21 October 2022,

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              Li, Z., Peng, S., Voyer, D., Li, C., Liu, P., Cao, C., and
              G. S. Mishra, "Application-aware Networking (APN)
              Framework", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-li-
              apn-framework-06, 30 September 2022,

              Li, C., Sawaf, A. E., Hu, R., and Z. Li, "A Framework for
              Constructing Service Function Chaining Systems Based on
              Segment Routing", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              li-spring-sr-sfc-control-plane-framework-06, 21 April
              2022, <

   [IEN23]    Cohen, D., "IEN 23: On Names, Addresses and Routings",
              Internet Experiment Note IEN 23, Notebook Section,
              1978, <>.

              Jia, W. and W. He, "A Scalable Multicast Source Routing
              Architecture for Data Center Networks", Paper IEEE Journal
              on Selected Areas in Communications, vol. 32, no. 1, pp.
              116-123, January 2014, 2014,

              Ren, P., Wang, X., Zhao, B., Wu, C., and H. Sun, "OpenSRN:
              A Software-defined Semantic Routing Network Architecture",
              Paper IEEE Conference on Computer Communications Workshops
              (INFOCOM WKSHPS), Hong Kong, 2015, 2015,

   [RFC0814]  Clark, D., "Name, addresses, ports, and routes", RFC 814,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC0814, July 1982,

   [RFC1853]  Simpson, W., "IP in IP Tunneling", RFC 1853,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC1853, October 1995,

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   [RFC3135]  Border, J., Kojo, M., Griner, J., Montenegro, G., and Z.
              Shelby, "Performance Enhancing Proxies Intended to
              Mitigate Link-Related Degradations", RFC 3135,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3135, June 2001,

   [RFC4291]  Hinden, R. and S. Deering, "IP Version 6 Addressing
              Architecture", RFC 4291, DOI 10.17487/RFC4291, February
              2006, <>.

   [RFC4655]  Farrel, A., Vasseur, J.-P., and J. Ash, "A Path
              Computation Element (PCE)-Based Architecture", RFC 4655,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4655, August 2006,

   [RFC6052]  Bao, C., Huitema, C., Bagnulo, M., Boucadair, M., and X.
              Li, "IPv6 Addressing of IPv4/IPv6 Translators", RFC 6052,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6052, October 2010,

   [RFC6115]  Li, T., Ed., "Recommendation for a Routing Architecture",
              RFC 6115, DOI 10.17487/RFC6115, February 2011,

   [RFC6282]  Hui, J., Ed. and P. Thubert, "Compression Format for IPv6
              Datagrams over IEEE 802.15.4-Based Networks", RFC 6282,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6282, September 2011,

   [RFC6992]  Cheng, D., Boucadair, M., and A. Retana, "Routing for
              IPv4-Embedded IPv6 Packets", RFC 6992,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6992, July 2013,

   [RFC7285]  Alimi, R., Ed., Penno, R., Ed., Yang, Y., Ed., Kiesel, S.,
              Previdi, S., Roome, W., Shalunov, S., and R. Woundy,
              "Application-Layer Traffic Optimization (ALTO) Protocol",
              RFC 7285, DOI 10.17487/RFC7285, September 2014,

   [RFC7597]  Troan, O., Ed., Dec, W., Li, X., Bao, C., Matsushima, S.,
              Murakami, T., and T. Taylor, Ed., "Mapping of Address and
              Port with Encapsulation (MAP-E)", RFC 7597,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7597, July 2015,

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   [RFC7665]  Halpern, J., Ed. and C. Pignataro, Ed., "Service Function
              Chaining (SFC) Architecture", RFC 7665,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7665, October 2015,

   [RFC7761]  Fenner, B., Handley, M., Holbrook, H., Kouvelas, I.,
              Parekh, R., Zhang, Z., and L. Zheng, "Protocol Independent
              Multicast - Sparse Mode (PIM-SM): Protocol Specification
              (Revised)", STD 83, RFC 7761, DOI 10.17487/RFC7761, March
              2016, <>.

   [RFC7911]  Walton, D., Retana, A., Chen, E., and J. Scudder,
              "Advertisement of Multiple Paths in BGP", RFC 7911,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7911, July 2016,

   [RFC7926]  Farrel, A., Ed., Drake, J., Bitar, N., Swallow, G.,
              Ceccarelli, D., and X. Zhang, "Problem Statement and
              Architecture for Information Exchange between
              Interconnected Traffic-Engineered Networks", BCP 206,
              RFC 7926, DOI 10.17487/RFC7926, July 2016,

   [RFC8300]  Quinn, P., Ed., Elzur, U., Ed., and C. Pignataro, Ed.,
              "Network Service Header (NSH)", RFC 8300,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8300, January 2018,

   [RFC8595]  Farrel, A., Bryant, S., and J. Drake, "An MPLS-Based
              Forwarding Plane for Service Function Chaining", RFC 8595,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8595, June 2019,

   [RFC8799]  Carpenter, B. and B. Liu, "Limited Domains and Internet
              Protocols", RFC 8799, DOI 10.17487/RFC8799, July 2020,

   [RFC8986]  Filsfils, C., Ed., Camarillo, P., Ed., Leddy, J., Voyer,
              D., Matsushima, S., and Z. Li, "Segment Routing over IPv6
              (SRv6) Network Programming", RFC 8986,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8986, February 2021,

   [RFC9139]  Gündoğan, C., Schmidt, T., Wählisch, M., Scherb, C.,
              Marxer, C., and C. Tschudin, "Information-Centric
              Networking (ICN) Adaptation to Low-Power Wireless Personal
              Area Networks (LoWPANs)", RFC 9139, DOI 10.17487/RFC9139,
              November 2021, <>.

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              Strassner, J., Sung-Su, K., and J. Won-Ki, "Semantic
              Routing for Improved Network Management in the Future
              Internet", Book Chapter Springer, Recent Trends in
              Wireless and Mobile Networks, 2010, 2010,

   [SOBRINHO] Sobrinho, J. and M. Ferreira, "Routing on Multiple
              Optimality Criteria", Paper SIGCOMM 2020, 2020,

              Zaluski, B., Rajtar, B., Habjani, H., Baranek, M., Slibar,
              N., Petracic, R., and T. Sukser, "Terastream
              implementation of all IP new architecture", Paper 36th
              International Convention on Information and Communication
              Technology, Electronics and Microelectronics (MIPRO),
              2013, 2013,

11.2.  URL References

   [COINRG]   Internet Engineering Research Group, "Computation in the
              Network Research Group (COINRG)", 2022,

   [ONION]    The Tor Project, Inc., "The Onion Routing Project :
              Anonymity Online", 2022, <>.

Authors' Addresses

   Adrian Farrel
   Old Dog Consulting
   United Kingdom

   Daniel King
   Lancaster University
   United Kingdom

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