FET pro-actives Map to make the internet more efficient
Slow connection speeds, web pages failing to load and e-mails going astray are the perennial frustrations of internet users. There could be even greater headaches in the future unless better methods of managing network traffic are developed.
The EVERGROW project laid the foundations for solving such big challenges facing the internet and other networks, helping to ensure people can communicate and share knowledge not just today, but also in ten to 20 years from now.
Bigger networks, more problems
As the internet and other communications networks expand they also grow in complexity. Researchers agree that, at some point in the future, processes that are currently carried out manually – such as network management, provisioning and repair – will have to be automated if traffic is to continue to flow reliably.
Better methods for directing network traffic to its destination will also be needed to handle the increased load as more and more people get online. The more widespread use of bandwidth-intensive services, such as streaming video and file-sharing, further compounds the problem.
The EVERGROW team developed a tool to create the essential resource for getting traffic between two connections on the internet as fast and smoothly as possible – a map.
Volunteers provide the data
Known as DIMES, the tool consists of a software program that thousands of volunteers in 108 countries are currently running on more than 17,000 computers. DIMES is similar in spirit to well-known SETI@Home project, created by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in which citizens worldwide volunteer their computer downtime to help process radio scans from space in the hope these yield signs of extraterrestrial life.
However, instead of analysing the heavens, DIMES analyses the internet. The software agent runs unobtrusively in the background when the internet user is online. It takes measurements of their connection speed and monitors the path of traffic in their area, including connections between different nodes of the network, such as the servers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Combined, the information creates a topographical map of the internet that researchers can use to identify better ways of routing and managing traffic. In return for their help, volunteers receive maps of how the internet looks from their home or office, while in the future they will receive personalised ‘internet weather reports’.
The internet is like a jellyfish
The EVERGROW researchers’ findings have led them to conclude that the internet is shaped like a jellyfish in which the mantle represents the well-connected parts of the internet, the brain is the nucleus of key nodes and the tendrils are the least connected areas.
When internet users request information via their browsers from a distant website, the data typically starts from a node in a tendril, travels along to a node in the nucleus, and then travels out to the node where the relevant information is held.
A more efficient path for internet routing, and one that is less prone to bottlenecks, could be created by sending the information via nodes in the outer mantle, thus avoiding the more congested nucleus.
Such insights could prove invaluable in the future to keeping traffic flowing on the internet.
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Funding SchemeIP - Integrated Project
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