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Towards Ultimate Convergence of all Networks (TOUCAN)

Project: Funded ProjectResearch

11/08/14 → …

Global demand for broadband communications continues to increase substantially every year. A major factor contributing to this demand is the growing number of fixed and mobile broadband users, data-hungry applications like video as well as an ever-increasing number of network-connected everyday objects and machines. It is forecast that by 2020 the number of network-connected devices will reach 1000 times the world's population while data volumes transported over networks will progressively grow to Zettabytes and upwards.

These trends pose entirely new challenges related to data volume, granularity, end-to-end connectivity and reach as well as increasing heterogeneity in network technologies (i.e. wireless and wired), networked-connected devices (i.e. sensors, mobile phones, computers, TVs, Data Centres) and services (i.e. Tbps data transfer for e-science, ultra-low latency financial transaction, real-time media streaming, kbps for sensor-based monitoring). Addressing these challenges necessitates radically new network models supporting convergence of traditionally separate network technology domains and offering high flexibility and adaptability in data granularity and throughput.

TOUCAN aims to achieve ultimate network convergence enabled by a radically new technology agnostic architecture targeting a wide range of applications and end users. This architecture will facilitate optimal interconnection of any network technology domains, networked devices and data sets with high flexibility, resource and energy efficiency, and will aim to satisfy the full range of Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) requirements.

TOUCAN will realise its goals by including the network infrastructure and its control as part of the end-to-end service delivery chain. Important enablers will be that of separating the data and control planes, which will rely on Software Defined Networking (SDN) principles. TOUCAN will drastically evolve SDN to incorporate fundamentally new technology-specific interfacing and resource description followed by infrastructure resource abstraction, virtualisation and programmability. These features will enable any network technology and device to become "TOUCAN-ready" which means that the devices are programmable and interoperable. This is the foundation upon which the technology-agnostic feature of the TOUCAN architecture will be realized; thereby ultimate seamless end-to-end convergence will be achieved.

TOUCAN will revolutionize the way we build and operate communication networks in a similar way that computer networks and more recently mobile terminals were transformed from platform-oriented to platform-agnostic solutions (e.g. through Linux and Android) and will drive towards commoditisation of network devices. Any new technology generation, regardless whether wired or wireless, will connect to the TOUCAN network in a plug-and-play fashion.

Our research will open up a new network innovation eco-system, which will allow for the first time applications to compose, deploy and program their own virtual network infrastructures, as part of the service delivery mechanism to optimally support their specific and very diverse requirements. Such an environment will be able to adapt to challenging and unpredictable infrastructure and service evolution scenarios, meeting future application requirements.

Research outputs