August 31, 2010

Cornell Researchers Work Towards Safer Internet

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With a three-year, $7.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the cooperation of 9 other colleges, Cornell hopes to reshape the Internet. Prof. Ken Birman, computer science, will work with Prof. Hakim Weatherspoon, computer science and Prof. Robbert van Renesse, computer science around a project called Nebula, which, according to Birman, has the potential to make the internet more secure, more mobile and faster.            “The Internet has a lot of issues with mobility,” Birman said. “We’re trying to make the Internet much more reliable.”            Birman expanded in an e-mail on the importance of improving electronic efficiency in an increasingly mobile world. The Nebula Project deals heavily with “cloud computing,” which refers to “sending computing tasks from our latops, iPads and iPhones, etc., to remote data centers where the work gets done.”            “The properties we’re worried about include ensuring that connections won’t be lost when users move around or when parts of the Internet experience small failures, protecting against attackers and ensuring that the user’s requests will be routed in a smart way to the right place,” Birman said.Speed of connection isn’t the only advantage to improving cloud computing, according to Birman, who said that by allowing the computers to be shared amongst multiple applications, they have less idle time, and thus are more efficient. Additionally, by pin-pointing cloud-computing networks near power sources, transmission line losses can be greatly reduced. Birman noted that transmission line losses have been estimated to consume 70 to 80 percent of the nation’s energy.Cornell is heading the project, with Purdue University and the University of Pennsylvania. The institutions involved are geographically and academically diverse, including Stanford, MIT and the University of Washington. Each Nebula school will focus on different aspects of the Internet. Van Renesse specializes in creating systems that are heavily resistant to virus attacks, and Weathersoon focuses on highly-efficient storage systems; Cornell will therefore focus on “fault tolerance, protection against attack, and network performance issues,” Birman stated.             According to Birman, electronic conglomerate Cisco Systems has been especially involved with the Future Internet Architects initiative, giving University researchers access to their high-speed routers. Cisco will also support the program by hiring student interns, to further both their own research and the NSF’s goals.

Original Author: Brendan Doyle