20 June 2007

Mapping the Internet


This is an interesting new approach to mapping the Internet Technology Review: Mapping the Internet. The work draws on the research project DIMES, and has some interesting interactive graphing tools, and a downloadable client to join in the mapping project.

It is interesting to compare this to the excellent work done at CAIDA, such as the AS-level topology maps of IPv6 and IPv4, using these tools (skitter probes, BGP table analysis, and ancillary tools).

Returning to the magazine article from Technology Review this extract gives a good flavour of the contents:

It's the first study to look at how the Internet is organized in terms of function, as well as how it's connected, says Shai Carmi, a physicist who took part in the research at the Bar Ilan University, in Israel. "This gives the most complete picture of the Internet available today," he says.

While efforts have been made previously to plot the topological structure in terms of the connections between Internet nodes--computer networks or Internet Service Providers that act as relay stations for carrying information about the Net--none have taken into account the role that these connections play. "Some nodes may not be as important as other nodes," says Carmi.

The researchers' results depict the Internet as consisting of a dense core of 80 or so critical nodes surrounded by an outer shell of 5,000 sparsely connected, isolated nodes that are very much dependent upon this core. Separating the core from the outer shell are approximately 15,000 peer-connected and self-sufficient nodes.

Take away the core, and an interesting thing happens: about 30 percent of the nodes from the outer shell become completely cut off. But the remaining 70 percent can continue communicating because the middle region has enough peer-connected nodes to bypass the core.

With the core connected, any node is able to communicate with any other node within about four links. "If the core is removed, it takes about seven or eight links," says Carmi. It's a slower trip, but the data still gets there. Carmi believes we should take advantage of these alternate pathways to try to stop the core of the Internet from clogging up. "It can improve the efficiency of the Internet because the core would be less congested," he says.

To build their map of the Internet, published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers enlisted the assistance of 5,000 online volunteers who downloaded a program to help identify the connections between the 20,000 known nodes.

The closest I can find to a full academic paper on this, rather than the magazine style article linked above, seems to be based on slightly earlier work very similar to CAIDA's, is an AS level topology analysis (paper).

  author = {Shai Carmi and Shlomo Havlin and Scott Kirkpatrick and Yuval Shavitt and Eran Shir},
  title = {MEDUSA - New Model of Internet Topology Using k-shell Decomposition},
  url = {http://www.citebase.org/abstract?id=oai:arXiv.org:cond-mat/0601240},
  year = {2006}


The k-shell decomposition of a random graph provides a different and more insightful separation of the roles of the different nodes in such a graph than does the usual analysis in terms of node degrees. We develop this approach in order to analyze the Internet's structure at a coarse level, that of the "Autonomous Systems" or ASes, the subnetworks out of which the Internet is assembled. We employ new data from DIMES (see this http URL), a distributed agent-based mapping effort which at present has attracted over 3800 volunteers running more than 7300 DIMES clients in over 85 countries. We combine this data with the AS graph information available from the RouteViews project at Univ. Oregon, and have obtained an Internet map with far more detail than any previous effort. The data suggests a new picture of the AS-graph structure, which distinguishes a relatively large, redundantly connected core of nearly 100 ASes and two components that flow data in and out from this core. One component is fractally interconnected through peer links; the second makes direct connections to the core only. The model which results has superficial similarities with and important differences from the "Jellyfish" structure proposed by Tauro et al., so we call it a "Medusa." We plan to use this picture as a framework for measuring and extrapolating changes in the Internet's physical structure. Our k-shell analysis may also be relevant for estimating the function of nodes in the "scale-free" graphs extracted from other naturally-occurring processes.

I am going to try and find out some more about this very interesting work, and I'll update this posting to reflect new information as I receive it.

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19 June 2007


Telecoms.com – News, Events and research for the telecoms industry

It is good to see emerging consensus in the telecommunications standardisation community on the use of IMS for Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC). Here it is reported that ETSI TISPAN and 3GPP have agreed how to proceed with the IMS Release 8 process.

ETSI TISPAN, the European standards body for the fixed-line half of the Next Generation Network world, this week agreed terms with mobile standards body, the 3GPP, on how to prevent the fixed and mobile versions of IMS from wandering apart.

IMS originated with TISPAN before being taken up by 3GPP for UMTS R99/5, but since then, the fixed-line and co-ax people have become more interested in the idea again. Both standards committees have been co-existing peacefully but perhaps not as happily as one might like.

The development of a Common IMS - common to fixed, cable and mobile networks - is going to go ahead in a 3GPP group, Services Specification SA-1, after a decision at last week's 3GPP plenary meeting in Busan, South Korea.

The job has to be done by the end of 2007 in order to be ready for the launch of UMTS Release 8, or "the IMS you can deploy" as some people call it.

Stephen Hayes, of Ericsson and 3GPP TSG-SA chair, said: "Over the next few months we must stabilise the Release 8 requirements and absorb the incoming Common IMS work."

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16 June 2007

IPv6 Alloactions to Enterprises in Europe - a problem?

In this excellent article Concerns grow over IPv6 migration - ZDNet UK the issues that effect the widespread adoption of IPv6 addressing within the enterprise networking community are addressed. It looks like the time has come to open up allocations more for enterprises and not just ISPs. I've worked with Tim Chown of the University of Southampton and the UK IPv6 Task Force on a number of activities, including the EU IPv6 Cluster -- a forum for interaction between various EU projects involved in IPv6. He has his finger on the pulse of the technical issues and has a good understanding of the business issues, so I respect his opinion on this matter. Note also the underlying message, as articulated here on a number of occasions, that even the conservative estimates of IPv4 exhaustion are converging on 2010 and 2011, not very far away.

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Enterprise Ireland IMS Workshop


On the 5th June Enterprise Ireland hosted a workshop on IMS (the IP Multimedia Subsystem that is the standard at the heart of emerging data and voice in Fixed-Mobile Convergence for the telecommunications industry). The main guest speaker was our colleague Professor Thomas Magedanz of Fraunhofer Institut für Offene Kommunikationssysteme FOKUS, Berlin; he's also a visiting professor in Waterford Institute of Technology working with the TSSG on a number of Irish and EU funded research projects. Amongst other things in his presentation he was promoting his Open IMS Playground, which we use as an integrated testbed between the TSSG and FOKUS.

The TSSG has started a website to track the Enterprise Ireland ILRP (Industry-Led Research Programme) IMS ARCS, in which FOKUS are a partner, and a recent posting on that site summarises the purpose of the workshop, and gives links to all the presentations made EI IMS Workshop | IMS ARCS Project.

In fact I was originally due to share the platform and speak at this Enterprise Ireland workshop covering some background on the TSSG, and giving some initial details of the new IMS ARCS programme. Robert Mullins of the TSSG deputised for me and gave this presentation.

So watch this space for future news on the TSSG's research in IMS, or track the IMS ARCS project directly on its own website. RSS feeds of the blogs are available as well.

IMS ARCS is an Industry Lead Research Programme (ILRP) lead by the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) in Waterford. The IMS ARCS project is building a platform to facilitate the creation of IMS based services so that companies can tap into this market more quickly and easily, while ensuring consumers are not swamped by the resultant proliferation of services. As part of this work, a world class IMS Test Bed will be set up by TSSG.

The vision of the IMS ARCS project is an environment where end-users can be immersed in a world of diverse IP-based media, voice or data services that can be received off any number of network types. The IMS ARCS platform will allow services to be selected and personalised based on the everyday needs of the end-user and on their current context. Every user’s experience of the network and its services will be differentiated by the user’s defined requirements, their past usage and their current context.

These services will be supported by the provisioning of both existing and next generation network technology including both scalable and seamless integration of multiple heterogeneous networks, and ad-hoc and sensor networks. This will encourage and empower network and service operators to create new business opportunities and profitable services in an integrated mobile world.

IMS ARCS (EI ILRP) Partners:

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13 June 2007

OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform) Announces Requirements for IMS

The OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform) announced on 12th June 2007 that it had completed its set of requirements that lay the foundations for the seamless deployment of IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) applications and services and pave the way for a more consistent end-user experience.

While many in the mobile industry believe that IMS will play a significant role in the future of data services, there are issues over the practicalities of deployment, which need addressing to enable IMS to truly deliver on its potential:

  • The applications that will built on IMS must be able to consistently access any necessary services;
  • The way in which applications respond upon receiving incoming IMS events must be defined;
  • The end-user must have a consistent and coherent experience;
  • Specifications must be consolidated and tiered for widespread uptake.

In its current form the IMS proposition fails to sufficiently address these four key areas and falls short of the full end-to-end experience that is required. OMTP’s requirements detail the steps needed to address these fundamental issues.

Tim Raby, OMTP CEO commented, “Despite the issues around its deployment, IMS delivers a host of potential benefits for operators, not least the ability to improve Quality of Service for end-users. For this to become a reality however there is a certain amount of ‘knitting’ needed to join up various elements. Our requirements give clear guidance to ensure IMS has the opportunity to deliver on its promises.”

The full OMTP Document (IMS Functional Requirements v1.0) PDF.
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12 June 2007

50,000th Issue of Guardian: A Moral Compass for the Digital Media Age?

Print of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile

I read yesterday's Guardian. This was the 50,000th edition of the newspaper, first published as the Manchester Guardian on 5th May 1821. The paper is justifiably proud of its leadership role in articulating liberal opinion over its long history, and of its role in defending the freedom of the press in the UK. It is equally proud of its role in the vanguard of the new media, being the leading online UK newspaper with many readers oversees.

In a strange synergy, I only recently listened to the excellent BBC podcast of the In Our Time discussion of the so-called Peterloo Massacre (BBC In Our Time Podcast), nearly two years earlier on 16th August 1819 and pictured above. This event was pivotal in the Guardian's history, as it inspired the founder John Edward Taylor to establish the paper as a forum for political debate. The Wikipedia Article on the Peterloo Massacre gives the background of the reform movement and the massacre.

I have added below some extracts from the front page article in the Guardian that places the Guardian within its historical context Napoleon to Iraq, and still going strong | 50,000 | Guardian Unlimited.

In 1821, John Edward Taylor, who had written the first eyewitness account of Peterloo, managed to raise the capital to print some 1,000 copies of the Manchester Guardian - intended, according to the prospectus, to be read by "the class to whom, more especially, advertisements are generally addressed".


Today's Guardian is, each month, read by 16 million "unique users" (Scott would wince), nearly a third of them in America. In the years since the great editor wrote those words - ever forward looking as others looked back - the Guardian has moved from being a provincial morning paper (albeit with a remarkable international reputation) to being the most-read British newspaper website in the world. On this new digital frontier more Americans read the Guardian today than read the Los Angeles Times.


We're with the grand old man: what a change, what a chance! The liberal values the Guardian has represented since 1821 are the same values which the new technologies today make possible: plurality of voice; diversity of opinion; an internationally shared discourse; a voice for the hitherto voiceless; a challenge to authority; freedom of speech and information; fairness and tolerance; the possibility of enlightened argument without legal or state restraint. All these are now imaginable, if not yet universal. The liberal imperative to promote them has never been more vital.

Stirring words indeed, and a lesson to all of us who work in information communications technologies and media to key a weather eye on our own moral compass, and have a strong view on what is best for all of our society.

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11 June 2007

Adobe Re-brands Apollo multimedia technology as "Air" -- Adobe Integrated Runtime

I've blogged before on the emerging abstraction layers for programming, or "Rich Internet Applications", blurring the line between the browser and the desktop.

It seems the area is hotting up. the latest news is that Adobe has re-branded its Apollo framework as "Air"-- Adobe Integrated Runtime. See this InformationWeek article for a review Adobe Renames Apollo, Pushes Rich Internet Apps -- Adobe Integrated Runtime -- InformationWeek

The battle to dominate interactive, graphical Internet application platforms just got kicked up a notch. Adobe Monday announced it has re-branded its Apollo multimedia technology that lets Internet applications run outside a browser as the Adobe Integrated Runtime, or Air, and released it into beta with new features along with the first beta of Flex 3.0, Adobe's development framework for Flash and now Air.

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Privacy International: Google Scores Badly

There has been quite a buzz on the blogsphere for the past few weeks over the report on the privacy issues of Internet services produced by Privacy International entitled "A Race to the Bottom - Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies".

A good summary is provided in this article: Privacy International pokes a stick in Google’s eye by ZDNet's Dan Farber -- Privacy International has poked Google in the eye with the stick. In an interim report on the privacy ranking of the major Internet services, Google was the only company found among those surveyed to receive a failing grade, which Privacy International described as conducting comprehensive consumer surveillance and having entrenched hostility to privacy. [...]

To quote part of the report that addresses Google:

  • Google account holders that regularly use even a few of Google's services must accept that the company retains a large quantity of information about that user, often for an unstated or indefinite length of time, without clear limitation on subsequent use or disclosure, and without an opportunity to delete or withdraw personal data even if the user wishes to terminate the service.
  • Google maintains records of all search strings and the associated IP-addresses and time stamps for at least 18 to 24 months and does not provide users with an expungement option. While it is true that many US based companies have not yet established a time frame for retention, there is a prevailing view amongst privacy experts that 18 to 24 months is unacceptable, and possibly unlawful in many parts of the world.
  • Google has access to additional personal information, including hobbies, employment, address, and phone number, contained within user profiles in Orkut. Google often maintains these records even after a user has deleted his profile or removed information from Orkut.
  • Google collects all search results entered through Google Toolbar and identifies all Google Toolbar users with a unique cookie that allows Google to track the users' web movement. Google does not indicate how long the information collected through Google Toolbar is retained, nor does it offer users a data expungement option in connection with the service.
  • Google fails to follow generally accepted privacy practices such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines and elements of EU data protection law. As detailed in the EPIC complaint, Google also fails to adopted additional privacy provisions with respect to specific Google services.
  • Google logs search queries in a manner that makes them personally identifiable but fails to provide users with the ability to edit or otherwise expunge records of their previous searches.
  • Google fails to give users access to log information generated through their interaction with Google Maps, Google Video, Google Talk, Google Reader, Blogger and other services.
A Race to the Bottom - Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies (PDF) Privacy International
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6 June 2007

Irish ENUM Launches

My colleague Miguel posts on the recent launch of the Irish ENUM service Miguel Ponce de Leon: ENUM Services launched in Ireland. His posting gives the high level overview of what public ENUM is supposed to be, and how close this offering in Ireland is to delivering on this. The downside seems to be the requirement for a validation every six months with a fee that makes it more expensive to maintain a public ENUM entry than an Internet domain name registration.
In essence the public ENUM service links a telephone number to an IP address allowing the integration of Internet voice services and telephony. It is like a top level domain (TLD) for +353 (the international code of Ireland) in the same way that there is a TLD for .ie (the Internet country code domain for Ireland).
Interesting I discovered a while ago that there is a parallel movement, championed by the GSMA (the GSM Association of mobile operators) to create a private "on net" ENUM as an alternative to this public ENUM infrastructure. Note that in telecommunications speak "on net" means on the operators' private networks, i.e. not on the public Internet; logical from their perspective if a bit confusing at first if you are coming from an Internet perspective (what we normally think of as "the net").
Linguistic niceties aside, the potential problem with the open ENUM as illustrated by this Irish launch is that it is in effect publishing your telephone number for the world to see via an open database, so that potentially it could lead to similar problems of spamming that we see when email addresses are publicly exchanged.
The promise of the private ENUM, as an alternative infrastructure using similar technologies, is that your mobile operator will protect your privacy and only give the information to other valid operators (that could include Internet-based VoIP providers who have paid to be part of the scheme. They have ample experience of this type of information exchange between operators through the use of the roaming agreements that allow us all to make and receive calls and SMS text messages anywhere in the world. Whilst there has been some criticism of expensive roaming changes, everyone agrees it is an invaluable service.
I have noted before that I feel that it it is no coincidence that this solutions to the business problem of information exchange between operators arose in the European Union, a strange political beast where independent nation states have agreed to sacrifice some of their sovereignty in exchange for lasting pace and economic stability. It means we are constantly debating where the line between sovereignty and shared rules lies, and it places us in a good position to develop models that work where international boundaries need to be crossed, and everyone's opinions and rights need to be given due credit. Alternatively US and Chinese solutions tend to assume one size fits all, and are less likely to sit well with smaller countries jealous of their own ways of doing things. It takes all sorts of course, but I feel the EU has a lot to offer in developing working solutions for cooperating countries, legal systems, and shared critical infrastructures, such as the Internet and the telephone network, that cross these boundaries.

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5 June 2007

The Grand Unifying Theory of Enterprise Computing: 2.0 (Sean McGrath, ITworld.com)

A provocative side-swipe from Sean McGrath on enterprise computing ITworld.com - The Grand Unifying Theory of Enterprise Computing: 2.0

The nub of his argument has some validity:

If the details of all of this do not interest you, here is the takeaway: you cannot design away the network - you can only hide it behind tall banks of dollars bills. There are those who do not believe this of course. Everything - including truth - appears to be relative to a given point of view.

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4 June 2007

Headway Software

Another TSSG spin-in company, Headway Software, is in the news the weekend with this Sunday Business Post article yesterday: Sunday Business Post | Irish Business News.

Headway's products allow developers to analyse their own code base make improvements in the quality of the code base by optimising various metrics. You can download a trial of the their entry level Structure 101 product on the Headway Software site.

The TSSG wish Chris Chedgey and his colleagues all the best in the re-launch of the Headway Software brand, we're confident it can make some real impact in the software quality world. They have had a couple of recent successes:

  • Interface21 roll out Structure101 to their support and consulting folks link
  • Coverity and Headway Software partner to advance software structural analysis and architectural control link
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