Cisco's 'Hybrid Information-Centric Networking' gets a workout at Verizon

The ten-year odyssey from concept to product continues

Last week, we noted the re-emergence of a sleeper technology, Information-Centric Networking (ICN). we've now learned that Cisco's been hard at work on it: Switchzilla has unveiled a trial implementation with Verizon.

ICN associates content with names rather than the IP address of the server hosting the content. As Dirk Trossen explained to El Reg discussing the latest ICN standards proposal, people working on ICN believe that model better suits a world in which something like a video is served up not from a huge server behind one IP address, but the nearest node of a content distribution network.

Cisco was an early advocate of ICN, which has a ten-year history, and has apparently been quietly building the technology to the point where a giant like Verizon would run it up in the lab.

As Cisco explained in its announcement, its ICN technology is designed to “simplify next-generation network architecture; enhance user-to-content communication; and improve mobility, storage and security in the network.”

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Cisco called its implementation a “hybrid ICN” implementation, based on software it acquired from long-time collaborator Xerox PARC in February. At the time of the acquisition, the company also contributed ICN software to the Linux Foundation-backed FD.IO project, and launched its first product, hICN.

Communicating names in ICN is the key technical challenge, and Cisco described its approach as deploying ICN “within IP”: “It preserves all features of ICN communication by encoding ICN names into IP addresses”.

This approach, Cisco said in this February blog post, offers “transparent interconnection with standard IP networking equipment”, meaning users can adopt ICN without having to replace or retire network-layer devices like routers.

Switchzilla also said the technology is particularly important for mobile delivery. Addressing content by name would, for example, make it simpler to resume an interrupted session (such as someone's train going through a tunnel while they're watching a Netflix video).

Verizon's test happened at the network operator's Waltham, Massachusetts-based Innovation Center.

Its aim was to test Cisco's ICN software, and validate its performance relative to “standard TCP/IP solutions”.

The carrier's veep for technology architecture and strategy Srini Kalapala was quoted as saying the test showed ICN could be deployed “with minimal existing IP infrastructure upgrades required”. ®




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