NSF solicits bids to run next-gen Web project office

GENI project office solicitation

The National Science Foundation has begun work on a new initiative that will test architectures for a next-generation Internet.

NSF has released a solicitation to establish a project office for the Global Environment for Networking Innovations (GENI), an experimental facility conceived by the research community.

“GENI promises to support the experimental exploration of robust new networking and distributed systems architectures and services that will revolutionize computing and simultaneously contribute to U.S. competitiveness in [information technology] and economic growth,” NSF officials said.

On Sept. 1, they posted the announcement of a single cooperative agreement with an anticipated funding amount of $12.5 million per year for up to four years. Letters of intent are due Oct. 25. The deadline for full proposals is Dec. 15.

Academic institutions in the United States; commercial firms, especially small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education; and independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations associated with educational or research activities are encouraged to submit proposals.

Unlike most test beds, GENI will be a general-purpose facility that places basically no limits on the network architectures, services and applications that can be assessed, according to the announcement. GENI will allow clean-slate designs and experimentation with real users under real-world conditions.

Officials said the project office will work closely with the research community on all aspects of GENI design, development, construction and operation.

“To ensure that all GENI activities are driven by fundamental research opportunities in networking and distributed systems, the [project office] will work closely with the computing research community in all aspects of the design, development, construction and operation of GENI,” officials said.

A GENI Science Council will include research leaders in networking and distributed systems. The council will develop a GENI Science Plan that will evolve as new scientific opportunities and challenges are discovered.

NSF officials said the ideal future Internet will reach toward a world:

  • In which mobility and universal connectivity is the norm and any piece of information is available anytime, anywhere.
  • Where more information is available online.
  • That meets commercial concerns, provides utility to users and makes new activities possible.
  • Where everyone can search, store, retrieve, explore, enlighten and entertain.
  • That is made smarter, safer, more efficient, healthier and more satisfactory by the effective use of sensors and controllers.
  • Where people have a balanced realization of important social concerns such as privacy, accountability, freedom of action and a predictable shared civil space.
  • Where computing and networking are natural parts of people’s everyday lives. Such tools will be so integrated that they become invisible.
“Today’s Internet, based on design decisions made in the 1970s, is extraordinarily successful.... However, we may be at an inflection point in the social utility of the Internet, with eroding trust, reduced innovation and slowing rates of uptake,” the solicitation states.

“The Internet is not secure,” it continues. “We hear daily about worms, viruses and denial-of-service attacks, and we have reason to worry about massive collapse, due either to natural errors or malicious attacks. Problems with phishing have prevented institutions such as banks from using e-mail to communicate with their customers.”

The existing Internet will never realize the potential of emerging technologies such as wireless communications or provide adequate levels of availability, officials said.

The Internet “should meet the needs of society in times of crisis by giving priority to critical communications,” they added.

The solicitation indirectly touches on Net neutrality, stating, “The design of the current Internet actually creates barriers to economic investment and enhancement by the private sector. For example, barriers to cooperation among Internet service providers have limited the creation and delivery of new services. A large number of specific problems with the Internet today have their roots in an economic disincentive rather than a technical lack.”


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