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Colloquium - Ford

Intuitive Global Connectivity for Personal Mobile Devices
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3/20/2008
3:30pm-4:30pm

Network-enabled mobile devices are quickly becoming ubiquitous in the lives of ordinary people, but current technologies for providing ubiquitous global connectivity between these devices still require experts to set up and manage. Users must allocate and maintain global domain names in order to connect to their devices globally via DNS, they must allocate a static IP address and run a home server to use Mobile IP or set up a virtual private network, they must configure firewalls to permit desired remote access traffic while filtering potentially malicious traffic from unknown parties, and so on. This model of "management by experts" works for organizations with administrative staff, but is infeasible for most consumers who wish to set up and manage their own personal networks.

The Unmanaged Internet Architecture (UIA) is a suite of design principles and experimental protocols that provide robust, efficient global connectivity among mobile devices while relying for configuration only on simple, intuitive management concepts. UIA uses "personal names" rather than traditional global names as handles for accessing personal devices remotely. Users assign these personal names via an ad hoc device introduction process requiring no central allocation. Once assigned, personal names bind securely to the global identities of their target devices independent of network location. Each user manages one namespace, shared among all the user's devices and always available on each device. Users can also name other users to share resources with trusted acquaintances. Devices with naming relationships automatically arrange connectivity when possible, both in ad hoc networks and using global infrastructure when available. We built a prototype implementation of UIA that demonstrates the utility and feasibility of these design principles. The prototype includes an overlay routing layer that leverages the user's social network to provide robust connectivity in spite of network failures and asymmetries such as NATs, a new transport protocol implementing a novel stream abstraction that more effectively supports the highly parallelized and media-oriented applications demanded on mobile devices, and a flexible security framework based on proof-carrying authorization (PCA) that provides "plug-in" interoperability with existing secure naming and authentication systems.

Bryan Ford began his systems research career as an undergraduate in the Flux group at the University of Utah, where he developed novel kernel structuring and component reuse techniques. After a break to join Phobos Inc., a successful networking startup, he returned to research as a graduate student at MIT, where he has pursued a diverse array of interests including programming languages, peer-to-peer and ubiquitous device networking, storage systems, and virtual machines.

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