Research by Ufes integrates an international project that seeks to increase the reliability and speed of the 5G internet
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Ufes studies that involve the transmission of information packages over the internet started to use the international research environment RARE (acronym for Router for Academia Research and Education, in Portuguese, Router for Academic Research and Education). This international environment, aimed at researching software-defined networks (SDN) and next-generation mobile telephony networks (5G, 6G and beyond), is maintained by the pan-European network Géant, focused on education and research. Through a partnership with Ufes, the Brazilian National Education and Research Network (RNP) also joins the initiative.
At Ufes, participation is coordinated by professors Moisés Ribeiro and Magnos Martinello, who are part of the Center for Studies in Software-Defined Networks (Nerds), uniting the Graduate programs in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The laboratory has funding from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Espírito Santo (Fapes), the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) in its multidisciplinary research.
Networks defined by software allow greater action on the elements that direct information packages in the internet core and that, until some time ago, could not be objects of innovation. “Although research was carried out, the implementation of new proposals in the internet cores was limited due to the adequate hardware being proprietary or closed. The possibility now is to program these elements that are responsible for forwarding huge volumes of packages (and not just configuring functionality developed by the manufacturer in them). Thus, we have the freedom to include intelligence in this data circulation, adding agility in the reaction to network failures, speed and security”, explains Ribeiro.
The Brazilian team is using the RARE network to test the Polka application (Polynomial Key-based Architecture for Source Routing in Network Fabrics), developed by Professor Cristina Dominicini, from the Federal Institute of Espírito Santo (Ifes), during her PhD in the Postgraduate Program -Graduate in Computer Science from Ufes, under the guidance of professors Martinello and Ribeiro.
The system, which was the only Latin American project awarded at Google Research Scholar 2021 (category Networking), proposes a new method of sending information packages, with a mathematical structure and without the use of tables. The award, in the form of funding, contributed to the evolution of the idea, but the progress of the project in a more integrated manner was also supported by interactions with the research and development team for networking solutions at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. Ribeiro adds that, “in complex projects like this, the multidisciplinary nature of the academic environment of a University allowed us to also count on the important collaboration of Professor Ana Claudia Locatel, from the Department of Mathematics at Ufes.”
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The use of tables is the current way of forwarding data packets on the internet to their destinations (specified by internet protocol addresses, the IPs). “The process is simple: the devices, known as routers, look at the destination address of the packets and then consult this table to know which port/connection they should use to best forward it to the next element, so that the packet approaches the desired destination. Any change to the path to be followed by the package therefore requires changing all tables along the way. In this new method, what is sent is the unique identifier of a route in the networks. The forwarder element performs a division operation between the route identifier and the router identifier in the network. The rest of the division already points to the port it should use to forward the packet. This allows for route reconfiguration and, eventually, even faster routing”, explains Ribeiro.
This agile redirection of data traffic in the event of failures and congestion is critical for critical applications operating on the 5G network, the tactile internet (which involves virtual reality applications, augmented reality and haptic sensors) or robots. According to the professor, this new solution makes it possible to choose the route at the origin and identify the packets to be transported, without the need for reconfiguration, which allows applications to have more agility and control in sending information.
The first test of the PolKA protocol in a real network was carried out at the end of 2020, involving forwarders in the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and Germany, with excellent functional validation results, which were published in a scientific article presented at a specialized conference on 2021.
The experiments in the RARE network were possible from a direct collaboration with researchers from the European academic networks involved. With RNP’s partnership, new tests can be carried out directly from Brazil. Ufes, through RNP, is linked to the Latin American network Clara, which connects to the European network Géant through the recently inaugurated submarine fiber optic cable of the Bella Program, which promotes interconnectivity between the two continents. “RNP will initially provide our laboratory at Ufes with a direct connection to Europe with a capacity of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). It will evolve to 10 Gbps as soon as the Bella program is fully operational”, says Ribeiro.
The Ufes being inserted in this context allows new partnerships and benefits for all involved, according to the researcher. “For its active participation in our initiative, RNP was invited to join RARE, which, in turn, also expanded its connectivity to experimental networks in the United States. This way, we will have access to a global network of advanced Internet experimentation.”
For the University, there is an opportunity for other groups that work with Nerds to also test applications on a global scale, as is the case of the research that unifies robotics with cloud computing. In addition, collaborations with companies have emerged, for example the funding, by Intel, of the sandwich doctorate of a Ufes researcher at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland. This project investigates new security vulnerabilities in critical applications such as cloud robotics. The initial results were recently published.
“In practice, research is carried out by students of postgraduate programs, but also by scientific initiation students, during graduation. And some of these graduate students are professors at institutions such as the Federal Institute of Espírito Santo (Ifes), as in this case. This has a positive cascade effect of training a high level of labor within Espírito Santo, which has also been seen with the foundation of startups, to enable the creation of products and jobs with high added value in soil. capixaba”, adds the professor. He recalls the existence of a startup linked to Nerds that is incubated in the Entrepreneurial Space at Ufes and develops a project, whose team is in the hiring process, which has funding from the ministries of Science, Technology and Innovation and Communications.
– By Lidia Neves –