Virtual Routers: A Technology for Enabling Internet Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Computing & Communications

Abstract

In this project, we propose to design and implement virtual routers. Routers are the fundamental building blocks that enable and orchestrate the movement of data in the Internet.For the most part the router vendors have been extremely conservative, and as the router software market is a closed one (a router from one vendor only runs that vendor's software), there is little potential for innovation through the usual channel of start-up companies. Our goal is to shake up this status quo.There are essentially two definitions of a virtual router:1 A single hardware platform simultaneously performing the roles of multiple independent routers.2 Multiple hardware platforms acting in unison to collectively fulfill the role of a single router.We plan to examine both types of virtual routers.Virtual routers are poised to offer a wide range of potential benefits. All users will benefit from reduced cost through hardware platform sharing and a means to easily and quickly adapt to ever evolving networking needs. The possibility of cheap outsourced router management may also be a significant benefit for many users.This will create new business opportunities, as the decoupling of router logic and hardware platform is ideal for the outsourcing of network services, while minimizing investment and maintenance cost for the network access service provider.The virtual routing platform will make access to high-performance and resilient routing devices much more affordable through the use of cheap, readily available, and often surplus to requirement equipment. The great flexibility inherent in the architecture will permit router applications that might previously have been too expensive, or readily permit additional CPU resources to be provided as load demands.Network providers will benefit from the ease of deployment of new network services and protocols that the virtual router platform facilitates, along with the possibility to achieve enhanced network maintenance, resilience and upgrade at reduced cost through hardware sharing, virtual router relocation and routing clusters.The research and education community will also benefit from the availability of a cheap and flexible platform enabling large-scale networking experiments.

Publications

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Greenhalgh A (2009) Flow processing and the rise of commodity network hardware in ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review