Crowley to further study Named Data Networking with NSF grant

Patrick Crowley and a nationwide group of collaborators have received a nearly $5 million collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation to further develop, test and deploy the group’s novel Internet architecture.

Patrick Crowley

Crowley, associate professor of computer science & engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, is principal investigator of the two-year, $998,769 grant to Washington University.

The grant is part of $15 million the NSF awarded to three multi-institutional projects that will further develop, deploy and test future Internet architectures. The funds allow the collaborators to further their work on Named Data Networking (NDN), the largest of five Future Internet Architecture research programs funded by the NSF.

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

With the new funding, the collaborators will look at Named Data Networking opportunities in health information technology and cyber-physical systems.

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

For cyber-physical systems, the collaborators are targeting building management systems, such as those that control lighting or interior temperature in large buildings and campuses.

“IP wasn’t designed to operate in those contexts well,” Crowley says. “With NDN, the focus is really on the information rather than the end points, and so far that has proven to be a real virtue in improving the measurement and dynamic control of building systems in today’s environment.”

IP is designed to support and secure point-to-point communication between devices with network addresses. For example, your browser sends a request for a page to a server’s network address. That network then tries to secure the tunnel or channel between the two devices.

But Crowley says that’s the wrong target.

“I request data, and I want the ability to independently validate that my information is secure and that it came from the entity I wanted it from,” he says.

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

In addition to the research, the collaborators also are forming a consortium to allow a range of large technology companies to become formal participants in the project.

Collaborators on the grant include Christos Papadopoulos, PhD, associate professor, Colorado State University; Kimberly C. Claffy, PhD, Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis, University of California, San Diego; J. Alex Halderman, PhD, assistant professor, University of Michigan; Tarek F. Abdelzaher, PhD, professor and Willett Faculty Scholar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Beichuan Zhang, PhD, associate professor, University of Arizona; Lan Wang, PhD, associate professor, University of Memphis; and Lixia Zhang, PhD, professor and Jonathan B. Postel Chair in Computer Science, University of California, Los Angeles.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security. With 82 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, 700 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.