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Autonomic Networking - Definitions and Design Goals

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This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 7575.
Authors Michael H. Behringer , Max Pritikin , Steinthor Bjarnason , Alexander Clemm , Brian E. Carpenter , Sheng Jiang , Laurent Ciavaglia
Last updated 2015-03-23 (Latest revision 2015-03-09)
Replaces draft-nmrg-autonomic-network-definitions-and-goals, draft-behringer-autonomic-network-framework
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Internet Research Task Force                                M. Behringer
Internet-Draft                                               M. Pritikin
Intended status: Informational                              S. Bjarnason
Expires: September 10, 2015                                     A. Clemm
                                                           Cisco Systems
                                                            B. Carpenter
                                                       Univ. of Auckland
                                                                S. Jiang
                                            Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd
                                                            L. Ciavaglia
                                                          Alcatel Lucent
                                                           March 9, 2015

          Autonomic Networking - Definitions and Design Goals


   Autonomic systems were first described in 2001.  The fundamental goal
   is self-management, including self-configuration, self-optimization,
   self-healing and self-protection.  This is achieved by an autonomic
   function having minimal dependencies on human administrators or
   centralized management systems.  It usually implies distribution
   across network elements.

   This document defines common language, and outlines design goals and
   non-design goals for autonomic functions.  A high level reference
   model illustrates how functional elements in an autonomic network

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 September 10, 2015.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
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   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction to Autonomic Networking  . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Design Goals  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.1.  Self-Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.2.  Co-Existence with Traditional Management  . . . . . . . .   6
     3.3.  By Default Secure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.4.  Decentralisation and Distribution . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.5.  Simplification of Autonomic Node Northbound Interfaces  .   8
     3.6.  Abstraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.7.  Autonomic Reporting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     3.8.  Common Autonomic Networking Infrastructure  . . . . . . .   9
     3.9.  Independence of Function and Layer  . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     3.10. Full Life Cycle Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   4.  Non Design Goals  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.1.  Eliminate human operators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.2.  Eliminate emergency fixes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     4.3.  Eliminate central control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   5.  An Autonomic Reference Model  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   8.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   9.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15

1.  Introduction to Autonomic Networking

   Autonomic systems were first described in a manifesto by IBM in 2001
   [Kephart].  The fundamental concept involves eliminating external
   systems from a system's control loops and closing of control loops
   within the autonomic system itself, with the goal of providing the

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   system with self-management capabilities, including self-
   configuration, self-optimization, self-healing and self-protection.

   IP networking was initially designed with similar properties in mind.
   An IP network should be distributed and redundant to withstand
   outages in any part of the network.  Routing protocols such as OSPF
   or ISIS exhibit properties of self-management, and can thus be
   considered autonomic in the definition of this document.

   However, as IP networking evolved, the ever increasing intelligence
   of network elements was often not put into protocols to follow this
   paradigm, but external configuration systems.  This configuration
   made network elements dependent on some process that manages them,
   either a human, or a network management system.

   Autonomic functions can be defined in two ways:

   o  On a node level: Nodes interact with each other to form feedback

   o  On a system level: Feedback loops include central elements as

   System level autonomy is implicitly or explicitly the subject in many
   IETF working groups, where interactions with controllers or network
   management systems are discussed.

   This work specifically focuses on node level autonomic functions.  It
   focuses on intelligence of algorithms at the node level, to minimize
   dependency on human administrators and central management systems.

   Some network deployments benefit from a fully autonomic approach, for
   example networks with a large number of relatively simple devices.
   Most of currently deployed networks however will require a mixed
   approach, where some functions are autonomic and others are centrally
   managed.  Central management of networking functions clearly has
   advantages and will be chosen for many networking functions.  This
   document does not discuss which functions should be centralised or
   follow an autonomic approach.  Instead, it should help make the
   decision which is the best approach for a given situation.

   Autonomic function cannot always discover all required information;
   for example, policy related information requires human input, because
   policy is by its nature derived and specified by humans.  Where input
   from some central intelligence is required, it is provided in a
   highly abstract, network wide form.

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   Autonomic Computing in general and Autonomic Networking in particular
   have been the subject of academic study for many years.  There is a
   large literature, including several useful overview papers (e.g.,
   [Samaan], [Movahedi], and [Dobson]).  In the present document we
   focus on concepts and definitions that seem sufficiently mature to
   become the basis for interoperable specifications in the near future.
   In particular, such specifications will need to co-exist with
   traditional methods of network configuration and management, rather
   than realising an exclusively autonomic system with all the
   properties that it would require.

   There is an important difference between "automatic" and "autonomic".
   "Automatic" refers to a pre-defined process, such as a script.
   "Autonomic" is used in the context of self-management.  It includes
   feedback loops between elements as well as northbound to central
   elements.  See also the definitions in the next section.  Generally,
   an automatic process works in a given environment, but has to be
   adapted if the environment changes.  An autonomic process can adapt
   to changing environments.

   This document provides the definitions and design goals for Autonomic
   Networking in the IETF and IRTF.

2.  Definitions

   We make the following definitions:

   Autonomic: Self-managing (self-configuring, self-protecting, self-
   healing, self-optimizing); however, allowing high-level guidance by a
   central entity, through intent.  An autonomic function adapts on its
   own to a changing environment.

   Automatic: A process that occurs without human intervention, with
   step-by-step execution of rules.  However it relies on humans
   defining the sequence of rules, so is not Autonomic in the full
   sense.  For example, a start-up script is automatic but not
   autonomic.  An automatic function may need manual adjustments if the
   environment changes.

   Intent: An abstract, high level policy used to operate the network.
   Its scope is an autonomic domain, such as an enterprise network.  It
   does not contain configuration or information for a specific node
   (see Section 3.2 on how intent co-exists with alternative management
   paradigms).  It may contain information pertaining to nodes with a
   specific role, for example an edge switch, or a node running a
   specific function.

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   Autonomic Domain: A collection of autonomic nodes that instantiate
   the same intent.

   Autonomic Function: A feature or function which requires no
   configuration, and can derive all required information either through
   self-knowledge, discovery or through intent.

   Autonomic Service Agent: An agent implemented on an autonomic node
   which implements an autonomic function, either in part (in the case
   of a distributed function) or whole.

   Autonomic Node: A node which employs exclusively autonomic functions.
   It requires (!) no configuration.  (Note that configuration can be
   used to override an autonomic function.  See Section 3.2 for more
   details.)  An Autonomic Node may operate on any layer of the
   networking stack.  Examples are routers, switches, personal
   computers, call managers, etc.

   Autonomic Network: A network containing exclusively autonomic nodes.
   It may contain one or several autonomic domains.

3.  Design Goals

   This section explains the high level goals of Autonomic Networking,
   independent of any specific solutions.

3.1.  Self-Management

   The original design goals of autonomic systems as described in
   [Kephart] also apply to Autonomic Networks.  The over-arching goal is
   self-management, which is comprised of several self-* properties.
   The most commonly cited are:

   o  Self-configuration: Functions do not require to be configured,
      neither by an administrator nor a management system.  They
      configure themselves, based on self-knowledge, discovery, and
      intent.  Discovery is the default way for an autonomic function to
      receive the information it needs to operate.

   o  Self-healing: Autonomic functions adapt on their own to changes in
      the environment, and heal problems automatically.

   o  Self-optimising: Autonomic functions automatically determine ways
      to optimise their behaviour against a set of well-defined goals.

   o  Self-protection: Autonomic functions automatically secure
      themselves against potential attacks.

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   Almost any network can be described as "self-managing", as long as
   the definition of "self" is large enough.  For example, a well-
   defined SDN system, including the controller elements, can be
   described over all as "autonomic", if the controller provides an
   interface to the administrator which has the same properties as
   mentioned above (high level, network-wide, etc).

   For the work in the IETF and IRTF we define the "self" properties on
   the node level.  It is the design goal to make functions on network
   nodes self- managing, in other words, minimally dependent on
   management systems or controllers, as well as human operators.  Self-
   managing functions on a node might need to exchange information with
   other nodes in order to achieve the required goals.

   As mentioned in the Introduction, closed-loop control is an important
   aspect of self-managing systems.  This implies peer-to-peer dialogues
   between the parties that make up the closed loop.  Such dialogues
   require two-way "discussion" or "negotiation" between each pair or
   groups of peers involved in the loop, so they cannot readily use
   typical top-down command-response protocols.  Also, a discovery phase
   is unavoidable before such closed-loop control can take place.
   Multi-party protocols are also possible but can be significantly more

3.2.  Co-Existence with Traditional Management

   For the foreseeable future, fully autonomic nodes and networks will
   be the exception; autonomic behaviour will initially be defined
   function by function.  Therefore, co-existence with other network
   management paradigms has to be considered.  Examples are management
   by command line, SNMP, SDN (with related APIs), netconf, etc.

   Conflict resolution between autonomic default behaviour and intent on
   one side, and other methods on the other is therefore required.  This
   is achieved through prioritisation.  Generally, autonomic mechanisms
   define a network wide behaviour, whereas the alternative methods are
   typically on a node by node basis.  Node based management concepts
   take a higher priority over autonomic methods.  This is in line with
   current examples of autonomic functions, for example routing: A
   (statically configured) route has priority over the routing
   algorithm.  In short:

   o  lowest priority: autonomic default behaviour

   o  medium priority: autonomic intent

   o  highest priority: node specific network management concepts, such
      as command line, SNMP, SDN, netconf, etc.  How these concepts are

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      prioritised between themselves is outside the scope of this

   The above priorisation essentially results in the actions of the
   human administrator always being able to over-rule autonomic
   behaviour.  This is generally the expectation of network operators
   today, and remains therefore a design principle here.  In critical
   systems, such as atomic power plants, sometimes the opposite
   philosophy is used: The expectation is that a well defined algorithm
   is more reliable than a human operator, especially in rare exception
   cases.  Networking generally does not follow this philosophy yet.
   Warnings however should be issued if node specific overrides may
   conflict with autonomic behaviour.

   In other fields, autonomic mechanisms disengage automatically if
   certain conditions occur: The auto-pilot in a plane switches off if
   the plane is outside a pre-defined envelope of flight parameters.
   The assumption is that the algorithms only work correctly if the
   input values are in expected ranges.  Some opinions however suggest
   that exactly in exceptional conditions is the worst moment to switch
   off autonomic behaviour, since the pilots have no full understanding
   of the situation at this point, and may be under high levels of
   stress.  For this reason we suggest here to NOT generally disable
   autonomic functions if they encounter unexpected conditions, because
   it is expected that this adds another level of unpredictability in
   networks, when the situation may already be hard to understand.

3.3.  By Default Secure

   All autonomic interactions should be by default secure.  This
   requires that any member of an autonomic domain can assert its
   membership using a domain identity, for example a certificate issued
   by a domain certification authority.  This domain identity is used
   for nodes to learn about their neighbouring nodes, to determine the
   boundaries of the domain, and to cryptographically secure
   interactions within the domain.  Nodes from different domains can
   also mutually verify their identity and secure interactions as long
   as they have a mutually respected trust anchor.

   A strong, cryptographically verifiable domain identity is a
   fundamental cornerstone in autonomic networking.  It can be leveraged
   to secure all communications, and allows thus automatic security
   without traditional configuration, for example pre-shared keys.

   Autonomic functions must be able to adapt their behaviour depending
   on the domain of the node they are interacting with.

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3.4.  Decentralisation and Distribution

   The goal of Autonomic Networking is to minimise dependencies on
   central elements; therefore, de-centralisation and distribution are
   fundamental to the concept.  If a problem can be solved in a
   distributed manner, it should not be centralised.

   In certain cases it is today operationally preferable to keep a
   central repository of information, for example a user database on a
   AAA server.  An autonomic network should be able to use such central
   systems, in order to be deployable.  It is possible to distribute
   such databases as well, and such efforts should be at least
   considered.  Depending on the case, distribution may not be simple
   replication, but involve more complex interactions and organisation.

3.5.  Simplification of Autonomic Node Northbound Interfaces

   Even in a decentralised solution, certain information flows with
   central entities are required.  Examples are the distribution of
   intent or high level service definitions, as well as network status
   requests, audit information, logging and aggregated reporting.

   Therefore, also nodes in an autonomic network require a northbound
   interface.  However, the design goal is to maintain this interface as
   simple and high level as possible.

3.6.  Abstraction

   An administrator or autonomic management system interacts with an
   autonomic network on a high level of abstraction.  Intent is defined
   at a level of abstraction that is much higher than that of typical
   configuration parameters, for example, "optimize my network for
   energy efficiency".  Intent must not be used to convey low-level
   commands or concepts, since those are on a different abstraction

   For example, the administrator should not be exposed to the version
   of the IP protocol running in the network.

   Also on the reporting and feedback side an autonomic network
   abstracts information and provides high-level messages such as "the
   link between node x and y is down" (possibly with an identifier for
   the specific link, in case of multiple links).

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3.7.  Autonomic Reporting

   An autonomic network, while minimizing the need for user
   intervention, still needs to provide users with visibility like in
   traditional networks.  However, in an autonomic network reporting
   should happen on a network wide basis.  Information about the network
   should be collected and aggregated by the network itself, presented
   in consolidated fashion to the administrator.

   The layers of abstraction that are provided via intent need to be
   supported for reporting functions as well, in order to give users an
   indication about the effectiveness of their intent.  For example, in
   order to assess how effective the network performs with regards to
   the intent "optimize my network for energy efficiency", the network
   should provide aggregate information about the number of ports that
   were able to be shut down, and the corresponding energy savings,
   while validating current service levels are on aggregate still met.

   Autonomic network events should concern the autonomic network as a
   whole, not individual systems in isolation.  For example, the same
   failure symptom should not be reported from every system that
   observes it, but only once for the autonomic network as a whole.
   Ultimately, the autonomic network should support exception based
   management, in which only events that truly require user attention
   are actually notified.  This requires capabilities that allow systems
   within the network to compare information and apply specific
   algorithms to determine what should be reported.

3.8.  Common Autonomic Networking Infrastructure

   [I-D.irtf-nmrg-an-gap-analysis] points out that there are already a
   number of fully or partially autonomic functions available today.
   However, these are largely independent, and each has its own methods
   and protocols to communicate, discover, define and distribute policy,

   The goal of the work on autonomic networking in the IETF is therefore
   not just to create autonomic functions, but to define a common
   infrastructure that autonomic functions can use.  This autonomic
   networking infrastructure may contain common control and management
   functions such as messaging, service discovery, negotiation, intent
   distribution, self-monitoring and diagnostics, etc.  A common
   approach to define and manage intent is also required.

   Refer to the reference model below: All the components around the
   "autonomic service agents" should be common components, such that the
   autonomic service agents do not have to replicate common tasks

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3.9.  Independence of Function and Layer

   Autonomic functions may reside on any layer in the networking stack.
   For example, layer 2 switching today is already relatively autonomic
   in many environments, since most switches can be plugged together in
   many ways and will automatically build a simple layer 2 topology.
   Routing functions run on a higher layer and can be autonomic on layer
   3.  Even application layer functionality such as unified
   communications can be autonomic.

   "Autonomic" in the context of this framework is a property of a
   function which is implemented on a node.  Autonomic functions can be
   implemented on any node type, for example a switch, router, server,
   or call manager.

   An Autonomic Network requires an overall control plane for autonomic
   nodes to communicate.  As in general IP networking, IP is the
   spanning layer that binds all those elements together; autonomic
   functions in the context of this framework should therefore operate
   at the IP layer.  This concerns neighbour discovery protocols and
   other autonomic control plane functions.

3.10.  Full Life Cycle Support

   An autonomic function does not depend on external input to operate;
   it needs to understand its current situation and surrounding, and
   operate according to its current state.  Therefore, an autonomic
   function must understand the full life cycle of the device it runs
   on, from first manufacturing testing through deployment, testing,
   troubleshooting, up to decommissioning.

   The state of the life-cycle of an autonomic node is reflected in a
   state model.  The behaviour of an autonomic function may be different
   for different deployment states.

4.  Non Design Goals

   This section identifies various items that are explicitly not design
   goals in the IETF/IRTF for autonomic networks, which are mentioned to
   avoid misunderstandings of the general intention.  They address some
   commonly expressed concerns from network administrators and

4.1.  Eliminate human operators

   Section 3.1 states that "It is the design goal to [...] minimally
   dependent on [...] human operators".  It is however not a design goal
   to completely eliminate them.  The problem targeted by autonomic

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   networking is the error-prone and hard to scale model of individual
   configuration of network elements, traditionally by manual commands
   but today mainly by scripting and/or configuration management
   databases.  This does not, however, imply the elimination of skilled
   human operators, who will still be needed for oversight, policy
   management, diagnosis, reaction to help desk tickets, etc. etc.  The
   main impact on administrators should be less tedious detailed work
   and more high-level work.  (They should become more like doctors than
   hospital orderlies.)

4.2.  Eliminate emergency fixes

   However good the autonomous mechanisms, sometimes there will be fault
   conditions etc. that they cannot deal with correctly.  At this point
   skilled operator interventions will be needed to correct or work
   around the problem.  Hopefully this can be done by high-level
   mechanisms (adapting the policy database in some way) but in some
   cases direct intervention at device level may be unavoidable.  This
   is obviously the case for hardware failures, even if the autonomic
   network has bypassed the fault for the time being.  Truck rolls will
   not be eliminated when faulty equipment needs to be replaced.
   However, this may be less urgent if the autonomic system
   automatically reconfigures to minimise the operational impact.

4.3.  Eliminate central control

   While it is a goal to simplify northbound interfaces (Section 3.5),
   it is not a goal to eliminate central control, but to allow it on a
   higher abstraction level.  Senior management might fear loss of
   control of an autonomic network.  In fact this is no more likely than
   with a traditional network; the emphasis on automatically applying
   general policy and security rules might even provide more central

5.  An Autonomic Reference Model

   An Autonomic Network consists of Autonomic Nodes.  Those nodes
   communicate with each other through an Autonomic Control Plane which
   provides a robust and secure communications overlay.  The Autonomic
   Control Plane is self-organizing and autonomic itself.

   An Autonomic Node contains various elements, such as autonomic
   service agents which implement autonomic functions.  Figure 1 shows a
   reference model of an autonomic node.  The elements and their
   interaction are:

   o  Autonomic Service Agents, which implement the autonomic behaviour
      of a specific service or function.

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   o  Self-knowledge: An autonomic node knows its own properties and

   o  Network Knowledge (Discovery): An autonomic service agent may
      require various discovery functions in the network, such as
      service discovery.

   o  Intent: Network wide high level policy.  Autonomic Service Agents
      use an intent interpretation engine to locally instantiate the
      global intent.  This may involve coordination with other Autonomic

   o  Feedback Loops: Control elements outside the node may interact
      with autonomic nodes through feedback loops.

   o  An Autonomic User Agent, providing a front-end to external users
      (administrators and management applications) through which they
      can communicate intent, receive reports, and monitor the Autonomic

   o  Autonomic Control Plane: Allows the node to communicate with other
      autonomic nodes.  Autonomic functions such as intent distribution,
      feedback loops, discovery mechanisms, etc, use the autonomic
      control plane.  The autonomic control plane can run inband, over a
      configured VPN, over a self-managing overlay network, as described
      in [I-D.behringer-autonomic-control-plane], or over a traditional
      out of band network.  Security is a requirement for the Autonomic
      Control Plane, which can be bootstrapped by a mechanism as
      described in [I-D.pritikin-bootstrapping-keyinfrastructures].

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   |               +----------+ +--------------+                |
   |               |          | | Feedback     |                |
   |               | Intent   | |    Loops     |                |
   |               +----------+ +--------------+                |
   |                         ^     ^                            |
   |                    Autonomic User Agent                    |
   |                         V     V                            |
   | +-----------+        +------------+        +------------+  |
   | | Self-     |        | Autonomic  |        | Network    |  |
   | | knowledge |<------>| Service    |<------>| Knowledge  |  |
   | |           |        | Agents     |        | (Discovery)|  |
   | +-----------+        +------------+        +------------+  |
   |                            ^                     ^         |
   |                            |                     |         |
   |                            V                     V         |
   |                 Autonomic Control Plane                    |
   |           Standard Operating System Functions              |

                                 Figure 1

6.  IANA Considerations

   This draft does not request any IANA action.

7.  Security Considerations

   This document provides definitions and design goals for autonomic
   networking.  A full threat analysis will be required as part of the
   development of solutions, taking account of potential attacks from
   within the network as well as from outside.

8.  Acknowledgements

   Many parts of this work on Autonomic Networking are the result of a
   large team project at Cisco Systems.  In alphabetical order: Ignas
   Bagdonas, Parag Bhide, Balaji BL, Toerless Eckert, Yves Hertoghs,
   Bruno Klauser.

   We thank the following people for their input to this document:
   Dimitri Papadimitriou, Rene Struik, Kostas Pentikousis, Dave Oran,
   and Diego Lopez Garcia.

   The ETSI working group AFI ( defines a
   similar framework for autonomic networking in the "General Autonomic

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   Network Architecture" [GANA].  Many concepts explained in this
   document can be mapped to the GANA framework.  The mapping is outside
   the scope of this document.  Special thanks to Ranganai Chaparadza
   for his comments and help on this document.

9.  Informative References

   [Dobson]   Dobson et al., S., "A survey of autonomic communications",
              ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems (TAAS)
              Volume 1 Issue 2, Pages 223-259 , December 2006.

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Authors' Addresses

   Michael Behringer
   Cisco Systems
   Building D, 45 Allee des Ormes
   Mougins  06250


   Max Pritikin
   Cisco Systems
   5330 Airport Blvd
   Boulder, CO  80301


   Steinthor Bjarnason
   Cisco Systems
   Mail Stop LYS01/5
   Philip Pedersens vei 1


   Alexander Clemm
   Cisco Systems
   170 West Tasman Drive
   San Jose , California  95134-1706


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Internet-Draft            Autonomic Networking                March 2015

   Brian Carpenter
   Department of Computer Science
   University of Auckland
   PB 92019
   Auckland  1142
   New Zealand


   Sheng Jiang
   Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd
   Q14, Huawei Campus
   No.156 Beiqing Road
   Hai-Dian District, Beijing  100095
   P.R. China


   Laurent Ciavaglia
   Alcatel Lucent
   Route de Villejust
   Nozay  91620


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