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Related Work

The original Internet directory service was supplied by a ``hosts.txt'' file that listed all hosts in the Internet. As the Internet grew, this approach was replaced by DNS [13] in 1985. Subsequent work on ``network directories'' such as X.500 attempts to support naming of other types of objects such as mailboxes and users, and providing more flexible ways of specifying identification, such as lists of attributes. We choose instead to restrict the entities being named (and the namespace) in order to improve scalability.

Content routing builds on the decentralized naming approach advocated from experience in the V distributed system [3], That is, as in V, names are the primary identification of objects, hosts and content volumes in this case, and each server implements the naming for the objects it implements. There is no centralized name repository.

Current wide-area content routing depends on HTTP- or DNS-level redirection, and is generally done on the ``server side''. For instance, Cisco's Distributed Director (DD) redirects a name lookup from the main site to a replica site closer to requesting client address, based on responses from a set of participating routers running an agent protocol, supporting DD. Unfortunately, the client incurs the response time penalty of accessing this main site DD before being directed to the closer site. Proprietary schemes by Akamai, Sightpath, Arrowpoint and others appear to work similarly. These proprietary content distribution networks can be centrally monitored and managed, unlike name-based routing. This may lead to better understanding of network performance; however, CDNs still rely upon the existing IP routing framework for content delivery, so the amount of benefit to be gained from a proprietary overlay network is limited. Additionally, we believe future work on advanced routing designs and improved network management is applicable to name-based routing as well as IP routing. (As research and experience with BGP has shown [11], wide-area routing is neither easy to understand nor easily tuned.)

Smart Server Selection [14], in contrast, is a ``client-side'' approach to content routing. An authoritative name server for a content volume returns all available addresses for replicas of the content, and the client (or the client's name server) interacts with a nearby router to obtain routing metrics for this set of addresses and chooses the nearest one. This requires cooperation from the router in the form of a request protocol, adding an extra step to the name lookup process. Smart Server Selection also does not address the problem of name lookup latency.

Similarly, some DNS servers measure round-trip times to known name servers in order to choose the lowest-latency server, especially at the root level. Although this can improve the performance of name lookups by lowering the mean lookup latency, it only helps at one level of a cache miss. Further, such name servers are ignorant of network conditions and thus may experience several timeouts before switching their preference to an alternate server.

Intentional naming [1] integrates name resolution and message delivery, offering application-layer anycast and multicast similar to our proposed content layer. The Intentional Naming System offers attribute-based naming, a much richer form of content addressing than URLs or domain names. However, INS is not designed to provide global reachability information, and the attribute-based naming is less scalable than the a hierarchal namespace provided by URLs. INS's ``late binding'', where every message packet contains a name, is too expensive to use for content distribution; our proposed architecture corresponds to INS's ``early binding'', where names are resolved to addresses before content is exchanged.

Much work has been done on distributed caching schemes; one design very similar in spirit to our content-layer routing is ``adaptive web caching'' [16]. In this system, caches exchange information about which web pages they currently hold (in order to eliminate the need for ``cache probing'') and maintain ``URL routing tables''. Our design does not offer routing on the granularity of URL prefixes, as adaptive web caching does, but offers a more comprehensive solution intended to replace current naming systems.

Network-level anycast designs such as GIA [8] attempt to solve server location problems at the IP level. The semantics of an anycast IP address are to deliver a packet destined for that address to the ``best'' of an available pool of servers. GIA does not incorporate application-level metrics, so anycast packets may be routed to an unresponsive server without providing any recourse for the client. Also, unless a client is statically configured with all needed anycast addresses, it must still use a directory to determine the address to use.

next up previous
Next: Future Directions Up: An Architecture for Content Previous: Deployment

Mark Geoffrey Gritter
Fri Jan 19 09:19:43 PST 2001