Internet Engineering at the University of Aberdeen
Research in Internet Engineering at the University of Aberdeen led by Prof. Gorry Fairhurst and Dr Raffaello Secchi and the wider team, has focussed on addressing key Internet Engineering challenges and has played a fundamental role in enhancing the efficiency of Internet systems through collaborations in a range of projects (see below).
The day-to-day operation of the Internet depends on voluntary adherence of vendors and operators to standard protocols and procedures specified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This work spans the design of Internet equipment, measurement of Internet infrastructure, to the design of the protocols that control data transport across Internet paths. RFC specifications are crucial to the day-to-day running and expansion of the Internet.
Although the commercial gain yielded by such open standards is not measurable, these standards are widely used at all stages in Internet service delivery: by networking equipment designers, by network and service operators, in data centres and as a basis for enterprise. RFCs are also used as the basis for government procurement of equipment and services, and underpin other standardisation, including cellular mobile standards for 5G technology.
Key research themes in Internet Engineering
Evolving the Internet Transport System and defining a new Transport Interface
Our research is exploring the networking architecture for end to end communications.
Working with key industry partners including Mozilla, CISCO and Celerway, underpinned the design of a new architecture for the transport system (TAPS). This is addressing key obstacles faced by Internet innovators by 1) lowering the barrier to application development through a new open transport system, that allows developers to automatically select a suitable protocol for an Internet application and to specify the options required; and 2) providing an architectural change where new transport services can seamlessly be integrated.
The TAPS archiecture, decouples the transport service from the design of the underlying transport protocol. This eliminates previous obstacles to deploying new methods, enabling evolution within the transport system, and allowing developers to benefit from new methods wherever they become available. Partners in the NEAT Project (see below) proposed a new system architecture and later contributed this to the IETF. An Open Source research implementation demonstrated the feasibility of this approach. Fairhurst and his team implemented the Datagram subsystem, and then defined the interaction with the network layer, resulting in further standards contributions around differentiated services, path MTU discovery, management of encrypted networks, etc.
Our research team has designed innovative research tools enabling large-scale Internet measurement of the transparency of paths to various Internet protocol mechanisms. These tools are used to examine mobile and wired Internet paths (e.g. MAMI, PREC, Tor). Employing these tools measurements provide engineering reality checks to help inform evolution of the Internet Architecture and protocols.
Interent Transport over Broadband Satellite
A wide variety of enterprise and broadband satellite systems have been studied as a part of the research at the University of Aberdeen. This includes design of methods for IETF ULE, DVB GSE, DVB-RCS, and other subsystems. We work on transport protocols and their interaction with the end to end paths provided by geostationary and non geostationary satellite systems. As part of a project funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), the team analyses TCP, HTTP2, QUIC, an encrypted UDP transport, and evaluated performance of web protocols. This research is proposing changes to the IETF QUIC transport, and contributions to ensure acceptable performance of the emerging IETF QUIC protocol over broadband satellite systems.
Reducing End-to-End Internet Latency across the Internet
Research in the interaction of transport and network protocols performed an in-depth analysis of the end-to-end delay experienced by Internet users. This work in RITE and MAMI brought Internet latency to the fore as an important performance metric. Latency measures the time needed to transport packets across the network, which ultimately impacts download speed and responsiveness of communications. Evaluation of the performance of Active Queue Management (AQM) methods showed these can significantly reduce latency, without requiring investment in higher speed communications links. Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) methods were defined that enable a router to better control the latency it introduces, resulting in the design of a new congestion control algorithm, TCP Alternative Backoff with ECN (ABE), and subsequent development of ideas by others in L4S.
Determining Appropriate Sending Behaviour for Internet Datagrams
From 2015-2018, and building on research around the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), we explored the impact of the industry move towards UDP transport by focusing on how network operators balance operational needs and user privacy concerns, to understand the implications of encryption on manageability of network traffic. Dr Fairhurst and Dr Verdicchio have worked on transport for video. Dr Secchi has studied ML mechanisms to identify QoS features from encrypted streams.
Following analysis of path failure due to packet size, our team worked with the University of Muenster to co-design a new technique, Datagram Packetization Layer PMTU Discovery, DPLPMTUD. This can automatically determine when it is safe to increase the size of packet being used, which allows a sender to detect a black hole and reduce the packet size (when current methods could fail by using full-sized packets). DPLPMTUD successfully avoids packet size black holes for 99.72% of tested IPv4 Internet paths. Using larger packets can reduce the packet rate by 17%, for 96% of paths, compared to using a default size of 1280 B. We have specified additions to IPv6 and UDP Options that assist PLMTU discovery.
List of Internet Engineering Projects
- QUICOPSAT: QUIC congestion control optimisation for Satellite, European Space Agency (ESA), (2022 - 2024).
- MTAILS: QUIC over Satellite, European Space Agency (ESA), (2019 - 2022).
- Measuring Paths in the Modern Internet, University of Aberdeen (with assistance from MONROE, Avanti), (2020 - 2023).
- ML for Traffic Characterisation, a subproject funded by SatNEx, European Space Agency (ESA), (2020 - 2021).
- QUIC Standardisation Study, European Space Agency (ESA), (2019).
- Tor Measurement, (2019).
- MAMI: Measurement and Architecture for a Middleboxed Internet, Coordinator ETH, EC FIRE FP7-ICT, (2016 - 2018).
- PREC: Prioritisation and Resilience for Emergency Communications, a project funded by Measuring Mobile Broadband Networks in Europe (MONROE), FIRE Testbed, Coordinator SRL, Oslo, (EC) (2016-2018).
- NEAT: A New Evolutive API and Transport-Layer Architecture for the Internet, EC FP7-ICT (2015 - 2018).
- SMILE/MMT, Thales Alenia (TAS-F), (2015-2018).
- RITE: Reducing Internet Transport Latency, EC FP7-ICT, (2012 - 2015).
- New-web: Exploring Transport interactions with SPDY-based web browsing Artes Programme under SatNEx European Space Agency (ESA), (2012 - 2013).
- RemoteStream, funded as a part of EPSRC/RCUK dot.rural project, (2014-2015).
- RuralPAWS: Rural Public Access Wifi Service, funded as a part of EPSRC/RCUK dot.rural project, (2012-2014).
- Efficient Networking and MAC Techniques, European Space Agency (ESA), (2011-2014).
- DART: Digital Advanced Research Testbed, TSB, (Coordinator Avanti PLC, in collaboration with University of Lancaster) UK (2011 - 2013).
- WiSE: Wireless Internet Sensing Environment, (in coollaboration with JHI) funded as a part of EPSRC/RCUK dot.rural project, (2009 - 2013).
- SIRA Satellite Internet for Rural Access (and SIRA STREAMS), funded as a part of EPSRC/RCUK dot.rural project, (2009-2015).
- dot.rural: Rural Digital Economy Research Hub Award, EPSRC/RCUK (2009-2015).
- DVB Activity: Simulation analysis of TCP/IP over satellite, Astrium Ltd, UK, (July 2011 - Aug 2011).
- Support for DVB-RCS Standardisation of Higher Layer Satellite (DVB-RCS2 HLS) , European Space Agency (ESA), (July 2010 - Sept 2010).
- Study of Generic Stream Encapsulation (DVB GSE STUDY), European Space Agency (ESA), (2009 - 2010).
- Development of satellite-friendly next generation transport protocol mechanisms, Thales Alenia Space (TAS-F), (April 2009 - September 2010).
- A secure adhoc full-mesh SATCOM network based on a DVB-S2 Physical Layer, Astrium Ltd, (November 2007 - December 2008).
- Creation and Validation Performance Simulation Environment, Inmarsat Ltd, UK (October 2006 - November 2006).
- Consultancy Support, DSTL Naval Systems, UK, (April 2006 - May 2006).
- SatNEx- II Satellite Network of Excellence, Consortium lead by DLR (23 partners), EC FP7 Network of Excellence, (Apr 2006 - Mar 2008).
- SatSix, Consortium lead by Alcatel-Alenia Space, France, EC FP6 (Jan 2006-Jan 2008).
- Secure Scalable Reliable Multicast, Joint project with University of Surrey, EPSRC (June 2005 - June 2008).
- IP Multicast within the Inmarsat BGAN System. Inmarsat, London,(April 2004 - Nov 2006).
- IPDVB Standardisation (April 2004 - March 2005) Consortium lead by University of Graz, with University of Saltzburg, ARTES Programme, European Space Agency (ESA), (April 2004 - March 2005).
- SatNEx Satellite Network of Excellence, Consortium lead by DLR (21 partners) EC FP6 Network of Excellence, (Jan 2004 - Dec 2006)
- Advice on Internet standards applicable to networking via satellite and attendance at relevant meetings, DSTL Naval Systems, UK (August 2004 - April 2005).
- IP Encapsulation for Satellite Communications, Consortium lead by University of Graz (with: UoSaltzburg, EMS Ltd), ARTES Programme, European Space Agency (ESA), (September 2003 - Mar 2004).
- SUNRISE II: Multimedia Distribution by Satellite Demonstrator: MPEG-4 , ESA ARTES Programme Consortium: Delta Communication, University of Aberdeen, London Symphony Orchestra (Nov 2002 - Apr 2003).
- SUNRISE, Consortium: Delta Communication, University of Aberdeen, Globecast NE, London Symphony Orchestra, European Space Agency (ESA), (2000-2001) .
- DOMINO II: Internet via Multimedia Satellite European Space Agency (ESA), (2001-2003).
- GEOCAST: Multicast Over Geostationary EHF Satellites Central European Commission (FP5), (2000-2003).
- Design and Optimisation of a Packet Data Mode for a Reconfigurable SATCOM Modem, DERA Defford, (1998-2002).
- Performance Issues of Interconnecting ATM Islands with Radio Links Defence Research Agency (DRA Malvern), (1997).
- A Gateway Providing Seamless Integration of TCP/IP Networks using Satellite Links, EPSRC, (1997 - 2001).
- Video Medi-CAL - demonstrating MPEG-2 JISC Technology Applications Programme (JTAP), (1996-1999).
- Feasibility of a Universal Gateway Between Commercial and Military Protocols Defence Research Agency (DRA Defford), (1996 - 1997).
- Optimisation of Protocols for a VSAT Packet Data Network, European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, NL (1995 - 1996).
- Protocol Issues in Providing 64 kbps SATCOM Links, Defence Research Agency (DRA Defford), (1995).
- Simulation of Road Traffic Monitoring by Satellite, European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, NL (1995 - 1996).
- Adapative Packet Protocols for SATCOM Links, Defence Research Agency (DRA Defford), (1995 - 1996).
- Aberdeen Condition Monitoring (CM) Project,
Scottish Enterprise and University of Aberdeen, (1994).
- Analysis and Optimisation of CODE
Protocols - Benchmarking the USI Router, European Space Agency
(ESA), Noordwijk, NL, (1994).
- Design of a Packet Modem, Defence
Research Agency (DRA Defford), (1994).
- Study of the Issues in Linking ATM networks
via Satellite Defence Research Agency, DRA Malvern, (1994).
- Measurement of the Performance of the
HSC and USI Satellite Routers, European Space Agency (ESA), (1994 - 1995).
- Object-Oriented Software Environment
(OOSE), European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, NL.
- Reverse Software Engineering using Artificial Neural Networks (ANN), PRISM Project, (1994).
- The Rekursiv Project, Hardware ANN, DTI (1994).
- Simulation Survey, European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, NL, (1994).
- Aberdeen Neural Development Environment (ANDS), Defence Research Agency (DRA Portsdown).
- Tracker (Data Fusion Project), Defence Research Agency (DRA Portsdown).
- Identification of Marine Targets by Neural Networks, UK MoD(PE), (1994).
- Robust SATCOM Protocols, Defence Research Agency, DRA Defford, (Jan 1993 - Dec 1994).
- Analysis and Optimisation of CODE Protocols,
European Space Agency (ESA), Noordwijk, NL, (1992 - 1993).
- Protocols for use with Satellites Possessing
On-Board Processing Capability, Royal Signals
and Radar Establishment (RSRE Defford), (Jan 1991 - Dec 1992).
- Development of a Graphical Tool to Visualise
the X.25 Protocol, Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE Defford), (1990).
- Protocols for ECCM SATCOM Links, Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE Defford), (Jan
1988 - Dec 1990).
- Use of X.25 Protocols on a 20/30 GHz VSAT
Network, British National Space Centre (BNSC), (1989-1990).
- Protocol Simulation of a Pseudo-Random, Frequency-Hopped
Military Satellite Communications Network, Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE Defford), (Oct 1984 - Oct 1987).
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