DATE: Thursday, September 4, 2008
TIME: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
PLACE: Wean Hall 8220


Colin Dixon
U. of Washington

An End to the Middle

The last decade has seen a vast proliferation of middleboxes to solve all manner of persistent limitations in the Internet protocol suite.  Examples include firewalls, NATs, load balancers, traffic shapers, deep packet intrusion detection, virtual private networks, network monitors, transparent web caches, content delivery networks, and the list goes on and on.

This trend has enabled network administrators to provide security, QoS, and other critical services to their users, however, we propose that this long-standing trend is about to come to an end, and we will better off for it. End-hosts are becoming increasingly powerful and are almost always massively underutilized. Further, many decisions currently being made in the network are being made based on information which is inferred about end-hosts based on their traffic patterns. This leads to the natural desire to bring end-hosts into the fold, and we propose to shift as much intelligence out of opaque, complex, difficult to configure middleboxes in the network and into flexible software configuration at the end-hosts.

This is a work-in-progress and I hope for it to be more discussion than talk, and look forward to getting any and all feedback.

Colin Dixon is a graduate student at the University of Washington. While an undergraduate at the University of Maryland he worked on approximation algorithms and anonymous communication. His current research interests include computer security, network architecture and distributed systems with a focus on deployable solutions for real-world problems.

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