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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08                                    
Thing-to-Thing Research Group                                  K. Hartke
Internet-Draft                                   Universitaet Bremen TZI
Intended status: Informational                          October 10, 2016
Expires: April 13, 2017

                     CoRE Application Descriptions


   The interfaces of RESTful, hypertext-driven applications consist of
   reusable components such as Internet media types and link relation
   types.  This document defines a simple standard that application
   designers can use to describe the interface of their application in a
   structured way so that other parties can develop interoperable
   clients and servers or reuse the components in their own

Note to Readers

   This Internet-Draft should be discussed on the Thing-to-Thing
   Research Group (T2TRG) mailing list <t2trg@irtf.org>

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
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on April 13, 2017.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2016 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
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   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Application Descriptions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.1.  URI Schemes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Internet Media Types  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       2.2.1.  Representation Formats  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       2.2.2.  Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       2.2.3.  Forms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     2.3.  Link Relation Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     2.4.  Form Relation Types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     2.5.  Well-Known Locations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   3.  Template  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   4.  URI Design Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     6.1.  Content-Format Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     6.2.  Link Relation Type Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     6.3.  Form Relation Type Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       6.3.1.  Registering New Form Relation Types . . . . . . . . .  11
       6.3.2.  Initial Registry Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     7.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     7.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15

1.  Introduction

   Representational State Transfer (REST) [15] is an architectural style
   for distributed hypermedia systems.  Over the years, REST has gained
   popularity not only as an approach for large-scale information
   dissemination, but also as the basic principle for designing and
   building Internet-based applications in general.

   In the coming years, the size and scope of the Internet is expected
   to greatly increase as physical-world objects become smart enough to
   communicate over the Internet -- a phenomenon known as the Internet

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   of Things (IoT).  As things learn to speak the languages of the net,
   the idea of applying REST principles to the design of IoT application
   architectures suggests itself.  To this end, the Constrained
   Application Protocol (CoAP) [23] has been created, an application-
   layer protocol that enables RESTful applications in Constrained-Node
   Networks [11], thus giving rise to a new setting for Internet-based
   applications: the Constrained RESTful Environment (CoRE).

   To realize the full benefits and advantages of the REST style, a set
   of constraints needs to be maintained when designing new applications
   and their application programming interfaces (APIs).  One of the
   fundamental principles is that "REST APIs must be hypertext-driven"
   [16].  This principle is often ignored by application designers who
   instead specify their APIs in terms of fixed URIs through some out-
   of-band mechanism, e.g., in an API documentation.  Although this
   approach may appear easy for clients to use, the fixed resource names
   and data formats lead to a tight coupling between client and server
   implementations and make the system less flexible.  Violations of
   REST design principles like this result in APIs that may not be as
   scalable, extensible, and interoperable as promised by REST [19].

   REST is intended for long-lived network-based applications that span
   multiple organizations [16].  Principled REST APIs require some
   design effort, as application designers do not only have to take
   current requirements into consideration, but also have to anticipate
   changes that may be required in the future -- years or even decades
   after the application has been deployed for the first time.  The
   reward is long-term stability and evolvability, both of which are
   desirable features in the Internet of Things.

   To aid application designers in the design process, this document
   proposes CoRE Application Descriptions, a simple standard for
   describing the APIs of constrained, RESTful, hypertext-driven
   applications.  CoRE Application Descriptions help application
   designers avoid common mistakes by focusing almost all of the
   descriptive effort on defining the Internet media type(s) that are
   used for representing resources and driving application state.

   A template provides a consistent format for the description of APIs
   so that implementers can easily build interoperable clients and
   servers, and other application designers can reuse application
   components in their own applications.

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2.  Application Descriptions

   A CoRE Application Description is a named set of reusable components.
   It is comprised of:

   o  URI schemes that identify communication protocols,

   o  Internet media types that identify representation formats,

   o  link relation types that identify link semantics,

   o  form relation types that identify form semantics, and

   o  optionally, well-known locations.

   Together, these components provide the specific, in-band instructions
   for interfacing with a given service.

2.1.  URI Schemes

   The foundation of a hypertext-driven REST API are the communication
   protocol(s) spoken between a client and a server.  Although HTTP/1.1
   [13] is by far the most common communication protocol for REST APIs,
   a REST API should typically not be dependent on any specific
   communication protocol.

   The use of a particular protocol is guided by URI schemes [7].  URI
   schemes specify the syntax and semantics of URI references [1] found
   in links (Section 2.2.2) and forms (Section 2.2.3).

   A URI scheme refers to a family of protocols, typically distinguished
   by a version number.  For example, the "http" URI scheme refers to
   the three members of the HTTP family of protocols: HTTP/1.0 [10],
   HTTP/1.1 [13] and HTTP/2 [8].  The specific HTTP version is
   negotiated between the client and the server through version
   indicators in the protocol or the TLS application-layer protocol
   negotiation (ALPN) extension [17].

      IANA maintains a list of registered URI schemes at

2.2.  Internet Media Types

   One of the most important aspect of hypertext-driven communications
   is the concept of Internet media types [2].  Media types are used to
   label representations so that it is known how the representation
   should be interpreted and how it is encoded.  The core of a CoRE
   application description should be one or more media types.

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   A media type identifies a versioned series of representation formats
   (Section 2.2.1): a media type does not identify a particular version
   of a representation format; rather, the media type identifies the
   family, and includes provisions for version indicator(s) embedded in
   the representations themselves to determine more precisely the nature
   of how the data is to be interpreted [20].  A new media type is only
   needed to designate a completely incompatible format [20].

   Media types consist of a top-level type and a subtype, structured
   into trees [2].  Optionally, media types can have parameters.  For
   example, the media type "text/plain; charset=utf-8" is a subtype for
   plain text under the "text" top-level type in the standards tree and
   has a parameter "charset" set to "utf-8".

   Media types can be further refined by structured type name suffixes
   (e.g., "+xml" appended to the base subtype name; see Section 4.2.8 of
   RFC 6838), or by subtype information embedded in the representations
   themselves (e.g., "xmlns" declarations in XML documents [12]).
   Structured type name suffixes should be preferred, because embedded
   subtype information cannot be negotiated (e.g., using the CoAP Accept

   In CoAP, media types are combined with content coding information
   [14] to indicate the "content format" [23] of a representation.
   Content formats are assigned a numeric identifier that can be used
   instead of the (typically much larger) textual name of the media type
   in representation formats with space constraints.

   A media type must be determined from in-band information (e.g., from
   the CoAP Content-Format option).  Clients must not assume a structure
   from the application context or other out-of-band information.

      IANA maintains a list of registered Internet media types at

      IANA maintains a list of registered structured suffixes at

      IANA maintains a list of registered CoAP content formats at

2.2.1.  Representation Formats

   In RESTful applications, clients and servers exchange representations
   that capture the current or intended state of a resource and that are
   labeled with a media type.  A representation is a sequence of bytes
   whose structure and semantics are specified by a representation
   format: a set of rules for encoding information.

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   Representation formats should generally allow clients with different
   goals, so they can do different things with the same data.  The
   specification of a representation format "describes a problem space,
   not a prescribed relationship between client and server.  Client and
   server must share an understanding of the representations they're
   passing back and forth, but they don't need to have the same idea of
   what the problem is that needs to be solved." [21]

   Representation formats and their specifications evolve over time.  It
   is part of the responsibility of the designer of a new version of a
   format to try to insure both forward and backward compatibility: new
   documents should work reasonably (with some fallback) with old
   processors, and old documents should work reasonably with new
   processors [20].

   Representation formats enable hypertext-driven applications when they
   support the expression of hypermedia controls: links (Section 2.2.2)
   and/or forms (Section 2.2.3).

   It is beyond the scope of this document to specify how hypermedia
   controls can be expressed.  The appropriate syntax, when available,
   is described by the representation format specification associated
   with each media type.

2.2.2.  Links

   A link is the primary means for a client to change application state,
   i.e., to navigate from one resource to another.  A link is a typed
   connection between two resources [5], and is comprised of:

   o  a context (usually the current resource),

   o  a link relation type that identifies the semantics of the link
      (Section 2.3),

   o  a target resource URI, and

   o  optionally, attributes that further describe the link target.

   A link can be viewed as a statement of the form "{context} has a
   {relation type} resource at {target URI}, which has {target
   attributes}" [5].  For example, the resource <http://example.com/>
   could have a "terms-of-service" resource at <http://example.com/tos>,
   which has the media type "text/html".

   There are two special kinds of links:

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   o  An embedding link is a link with the additional hint that it, when
      processed, should be substituted with a representation of the
      referenced resource.  Thus, traversing an embedding link adds to
      the application state, rather than replacing it.

      The most well known example for an embedding link is the HTML
      <img> element.  When a web browser processes this element, it
      automatically dereferences the "src" and renders the returned
      image in place of the <img> element.

   o  A templated link is a link where the client constructs the target
      resource URI from provided in-band instructions.  The specific
      rules for such instructions are described by the representation
      format.  URI Templates [3] provide a generic way to construct URIs
      through variable expansion.

      Templated links allow a client to construct resource URIs without
      being coupled to the resource structure at the server (provided
      that the client learns the template from a representation sent by
      the server and does not have the template hard coded).

2.2.3.  Forms

   A form is the primary means for a client to change resource state.
   It is comprised of:

   o  a context (usually the current resource),

   o  a form relation type that identifies the semantics of the form
      (Section 2.4),

   o  a target resource URI,

   o  a submission method (PUT, POST, PATCH, or DELETE), and

   o  a description of a representation that the service accepts as part
      of form submission.  This description can be a set of form fields
      or simply a list of acceptable media types.

   A form can be viewed as an instruction of the form "To {relation
   type} the {context}, make a {method} request to {target URI}".  For
   example, to "update" the resource <http://example.com/config>, a
   client should make a PUT request to <http://example.com/config>.

   Note:  A form with a submission method of GET is, strictly speaking,
      a templated link, since it provides a way to construct a URI and
      does not change resource state.

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2.3.  Link Relation Types

   A link relation type identifies the semantics of a link [5].  For
   example, a link with the relation type "copyright" indicates that the
   resource identified by the target URI is a statement of the copyright
   terms applying to the current context.

   Relation types are not to be confused with media types; they do not
   identify the format of the representation that results when the link
   is dereferenced.  Rather, they only describe how the current context
   is related to another resource.

      IANA maintains a list of registered link relation types at

   Applications that don't wish to register a relation type can use an
   extension relation type, which is a URI that uniquely identifies the
   relation type (similar to a URI used as an XML namespace names).  For
   example, an application can use "http://example.com/foo" as link
   relation type without having to register it.

   In order to minimize the overhead of link relation types in
   representation formats with space constraints, link relation types
   are assigned a numeric identifier that can be used in place of the
   textual name of the link relation type (see also Section 6.2).  For
   example, the link relation type "copyright" has the numeric
   identifier 12.

2.4.  Form Relation Types

   A form relation type identifies the semantics of a form.  For
   example, a form with the relation type "create-item" indicates that a
   new item can be created within the current context by making a
   request to the resource identified by the target URI.

      IANA maintains a list of registered form relation types at

   Similar to link relation types, applications can use extension
   relation types when they don't wish to register a relation type.

   Form relation types are also assigned a numeric identifier that can
   be used in place of the form relation type name.

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2.5.  Well-Known Locations

   Some applications may require the discovery of information about a
   host (known as "site-wide metadata" in RFC 5785 [4]).  For example,
   RFC 6415 [18] defines a metadata document format for describing
   hosts; similarly, RFC 6690 [22] defines a link format for the
   discovery of resources hosted by a server.

   Applications that need to define a resource for this kind of metadata
   can register new "well-known locations".  RFC 5785 [4] defines a path
   prefix in "http" and "https" URIs for this purpose, "/.well-known/";
   RFC 7252 [23] extends this concept to "coap" and "coaps" URIs.

      IANA maintains a list of registered well-known URIs at

3.  Template

   Application name:

   URI schemes:

   Media types:

   Link relation types:

   Form relation types:

   Well-known locations:

   Interoperability considerations:

   Security considerations:


   Author/Change controller:

4.  URI Design Considerations

   URIs [1] are a cornerstone of RESTful applications.  They enable
   uniform identification of resources via URI schemes [7] and are used
   every time a client interacts with a particular resource or when a
   resource representation references another resource.

   URIs often include structured application data in the path and query
   components, such as paths in a filesystem or keys in a database.  It
   is common for many REST APIs to prescribe a fixed format for this

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   data.  However, there are a number of problems with this practice
   [6], in particular if the application designer and the server owner
   are not the same entity.

   Therefore, in hypertext-driven applications URIs are not included in
   the application interface.  A CoRE Application Description must not
   mandate any particular form of URI substructure that is not
   explicitly allowed by RFC 3986 [1].

   RFC 7320 [6] describes the problematic practice of fixed URI
   structures in detail and provides some acceptable alternatives.

   Even though URIs are not part of the application interface, the
   design of the URI structure on a server is an essential part of
   implementing a RESTful application.  The server implementer is
   responsible for binding the resources identified by the application
   designer to URIs.

   A good RESTful URI is:

   o  Short.  Short URIs are easier to remember and cause less overhead
      in requests and representations.

   o  Meaningful.  A URI should describe the resource in a way that is
      meaningful and useful to humans.

   o  Consistent.  URIs should follow a consistent pattern to make it
      easy to reason about the application.

   o  Bookmarkable.  Cool URIs don't change [9].  However, application
      resource structures change.  That should naturally cause URIs to
      change so they better reflect reality.  So implementations should
      not depend on unchanging URIs.

   o  Shareable.  A URI should not be context sensitive, e.g., to the
      currently logged-in user.  It should be possible to share a URI
      with third parties so they can access the same resource.

   o  Extension-less.  Some applications return different data for
      different extensions, e.g., for "contacts.xml" or "contacts.json".
      But different URIs imply different resources.  RESTful URIs should
      identify a single resource.  Different representations of the
      resource can be negotiated (e.g., using the CoAP Accept option).

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5.  Security Considerations

   The security considerations of RFC 3986 [1], RFC 5785 [4], RFC 5988
   [5], RFC 6570 [3], RFC 6838 [2], RFC 7320 [6], and RFC 7595 [7] are

   All components of an application description are expected to contain
   clear security considerations.  CoRE Application Descriptions should
   furthermore contain security considerations that need to be taken
   into account for the security of the overall application.

6.  IANA Considerations

   [Note to RFC Editor: Please replace XXXX in this section with the RFC
   number of this specification.]

6.1.  Content-Format Registry

   RFC 6838 [2] establishes a IANA registry for media types.  Many of
   these media types are also useful in constrained environments as CoAP
   content formats.  RFC 7252 [23] establishes a IANA registry for these
   content formats.  This specification tasks IANA with the allocation
   of a content format for any existing or new media type registration
   that does not define any parameters (required or optional).  The
   content formats shall be allocated in the range 1000-9999.

6.2.  Link Relation Type Registry

   RFC 5988 [5] establishes a IANA registry for link relation types.
   This specification extends the registration template with a "Relation
   ID": a numeric identifier that can be used instead of the "Relation
   Name" to identify a link relation type.  IANA is tasked with the
   assignment of an ID to any existing or new link relation type.  The
   IDs shall be assigned in the range 1-9999.

6.3.  Form Relation Type Registry

   This specification establishes a IANA registry for form relation

6.3.1.  Registering New Form Relation Types

   Form relation types are registered in the same way as link relation
   types [5], i.e., they are registered on the advice of a Designated
   Expert with a Specification Required.

   The requirements for registered relation types are adopted from
   Section 4.1 of RFC 5988 [5].

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   The registration template is:

   o  Relation Name:

   o  Relation ID:

   o  Description:

   o  Reference:

   o  Notes: [optional]

   The IDs shall be assigned in the range 1-9999.

6.3.2.  Initial Registry Contents

   The Form Relation Type registry's initial contents are:

   o  Relation Name: create-item
      Relation ID: 1
      Description: Refers to a resource that can be used to create a
      resource in a collection of resources.
      Reference: [RFCXXXX]

   o  Relation Name: delete
      Relation ID: 2
      Description: Refers to a resource that can be used to delete a
      resource in a collection of resources.
      Reference: [RFCXXXX]

   o  Relation Name: update
      Relation ID: 3
      Description: Refers to a resource that can be used to update the
      state of the form's context.
      Reference: [RFCXXXX]

7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [1]        Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform
              Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66,
              RFC 3986, DOI 10.17487/RFC3986, January 2005,

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   [2]        Freed, N., Klensin, J., and T. Hansen, "Media Type
              Specifications and Registration Procedures", BCP 13,
              RFC 6838, DOI 10.17487/RFC6838, January 2013,

   [3]        Gregorio, J., Fielding, R., Hadley, M., Nottingham, M.,
              and D. Orchard, "URI Template", RFC 6570,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6570, March 2012,

   [4]        Nottingham, M. and E. Hammer-Lahav, "Defining Well-Known
              Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs)", RFC 5785,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5785, April 2010,

   [5]        Nottingham, M., "Web Linking", RFC 5988,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5988, October 2010,

   [6]        Nottingham, M., "URI Design and Ownership", BCP 190,
              RFC 7320, DOI 10.17487/RFC7320, July 2014,

   [7]        Thaler, D., Ed., Hansen, T., and T. Hardie, "Guidelines
              and Registration Procedures for URI Schemes", BCP 35,
              RFC 7595, DOI 10.17487/RFC7595, June 2015,

7.2.  Informative References

   [8]        Belshe, M., Peon, R., and M. Thomson, Ed., "Hypertext
              Transfer Protocol Version 2 (HTTP/2)", RFC 7540,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7540, May 2015,

   [9]        Berners-Lee, T., "Cool URIs don't change", 1998,

   [10]       Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and H. Frystyk, "Hypertext
              Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.0", RFC 1945,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC1945, May 1996,

   [11]       Bormann, C., Ersue, M., and A. Keranen, "Terminology for
              Constrained-Node Networks", RFC 7228,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7228, May 2014,

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   [12]       Bray, T., Hollander, D., Layman, A., Tobin, R., and H.
              Thompson, "Namespaces in XML 1.0 (Third Edition)", World
              Wide Web Consortium Recommendation REC-xml-names-20091208,
              December 2009,

   [13]       Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing",
              RFC 7230, DOI 10.17487/RFC7230, June 2014,

   [14]       Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Semantics and Content", RFC 7231,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7231, June 2014,

   [15]       Fielding, R., "Architectural Styles and the Design of
              Network-based Software Architectures", Ph.D. Dissertation,
              University of California, Irvine, 2000,

   [16]       Fielding, R., "REST APIs must be hypertext-driven",
              October 2008, <http://roy.gbiv.com/untangled/2008/

   [17]       Friedl, S., Popov, A., Langley, A., and E. Stephan,
              "Transport Layer Security (TLS) Application-Layer Protocol
              Negotiation Extension", RFC 7301, DOI 10.17487/RFC7301,
              July 2014, <http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7301>.

   [18]       Hammer-Lahav, E., Ed. and B. Cook, "Web Host Metadata",
              RFC 6415, DOI 10.17487/RFC6415, October 2011,

   [19]       Li, L., Wei, Z., Luo, M., and W. Chou, "Requirements and
              Design Patterns for REST Northbound API in SDN", draft-li-
              sdnrg-design-restapi-02 (work in progress), July 2016.

   [20]       Masinter, L., "MIME and the Web", draft-masinter-mime-web-
              info-02 (work in progress), January 2011.

   [21]       Richardson, L. and M. Amundsen, "RESTful Web APIs",
              O'Reilly Media, ISBN 978-1-4493-5806-8, September 2013.

   [22]       Shelby, Z., "Constrained RESTful Environments (CoRE) Link
              Format", RFC 6690, DOI 10.17487/RFC6690, August 2012,

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   [23]       Shelby, Z., Hartke, K., and C. Bormann, "The Constrained
              Application Protocol (CoAP)", RFC 7252,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7252, June 2014,


   Jan Algermissen, Mike Amundsen, Mike Kelly, Julian Reschke, and Erik
   Wilde provided valuable input on link and form relation types.

   Thanks to Olaf Bergmann, Carsten Bormann, Stefanie Gerdes, Ari
   Keranen, Michael Koster, Matthias Kovatsch, Teemu Savolainen, and
   Bilhanan Silverajan for helpful comments and discussions that have
   shaped the document.

   Some of the text in this document has been borrowed from [5], [6],
   [16], [19], and [20].  All errors are my own.

   This work was funded in part by Nokia.

Author's Address

   Klaus Hartke
   Universitaet Bremen TZI
   Postfach 330440
   Bremen  D-28359

   Phone: +49-421-218-63905
   Email: hartke@tzi.org

Hartke                   Expires April 13, 2017                [Page 15]