Dirk Kutscher

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Dagstuhl Seminar on Compute-First Networking

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Eve Schooler, Jon Crowcroft, Phil Eardley, and myself organized an online Dagstuhl seminar on Compute-First Networking earlier in June that was attended by an excellent group of researchers from distributed computing, networking and data analytics communities.

Dagstuhl has now published the seminar report that discusses new perspectives on doing Computing in the Networking, use cases and that includes many references to relevant literature and on-going projects in the field.

Executive Summary

Edge- and more generally In-Network Computing are key elements in many traditional content distribution services today, typically connecting cloud-based computing to consumers. The advent of new programmable hardware platforms, research and wide deployment of distributed computing technologies for data processing, as well as new exciting use cases such as distributed Machine Learning and Metaverse-style ubiquitous computing are now inspiring research of more fine-granular and more principled approaches to distributed computing in the "Edge-To-Cloud Continuum".

The Compute-First Networking Dagstuhl seminar has brought together researchers and practitioners in the fields of distributed computing, network programmability, Internet of Things, and data analytics to explore the potential, possible technological components, as well as open research questions in an exciting new field that will likely induce a paradigm shift for networking and its relationship with computing.

Traditional overlay-based in-network computing is typically limited to quite specific purposes, for example CDN-style edge computing. At the same time, network programmability approaches such as Software-Defined Networking and corresponding languages such as P4 are often perceived as too limited for application-level programming. Compute-First Networking (CFN) views networking and computing holistically and aims at leveraging network programmability, server- and serverless in-network computing and modern distributed computing abstraction to develop a new system's approach for an environment where computing is not merely and add-on to existing networks, but where networking is re-imagined with a broader and ubiquitous notion of programmability.

We expect this approach to enable several benefits: it can help to unlock distributed computing from the existing silos of individual cloud and CDN platforms – a necessary condition to enable Keiichi Matsuda's vision of Hyper-Reality and Metaverse concepts where the physical world, human users and different forms of analytics, and visual rendering services constantly engage in information exchanges, directly at the edges of the network. It can also help to provide reliable, scalable, privacy-preserving and universally available platforms for Distributed Machine Learning applications that will play a key role in future large-scale data collection and analytics.

CFN's integrated approach allows for several optimizations, for example a more informed and more adaptive resource optimization that can take into account dynamically changing network conditions, availability of utilization of compute platforms as well as application requirements and adaptation boundaries, thus enabling more
responsive and better-performing applications.

Several interesting research challenges have been identified that should be addressed in order to realize the CFN vision: How should the different levels of programmability in todays system be integrated into a consistent approach? How would programming and communication abstractions look like? How do orchestration systems need to evolve in order to be usable in these potentially large scale scenarios? How can be guarantee security and privacy properties of a distributed computing slice without having to rely on just location attributes? How would the special requirements and properties of relevant applications such as Distributed Machine best be mapped to CFN – or should distributed data processing for federated or split Machine Learning play a more prominent role in designing CFN abstractions?

This seminar was an important first step in identifying the potential and a first set of interesting new research challenges for re-imaging distributed computing through CFN – an exciting new topic for networking and distributed computing research.

Written by dkutscher

December 1st, 2021 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Events,Posts

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Compute First Networking (CFN): Distributed Computing meets ICN

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Edge- and, more generally, in-network computing is receiving a lot attention in research and industry fora. What are the interesting research questions from a networking perspective? In-network computing can be conceived in many different ways - from active networking, data plane programmability, running virtualized functions, service chaining, to distributed computing. Modern distributed computing frameworks and domain-specific languages provide a convenient and robust way to structure large distributed applications and deploy them on either data center or edge computing environments. The current systems suffer however from the need for a complex underlay of services to allow them to run effectively on existing Internet protocols. These services include centralized schedulers, DNS-based name translation, stateful load balancers, and heavy-weight transport protocols.

Over the past years, we have been working on alternative approaches, trying to find ways for integrating networking and computing in new ways, so that distributed computing can leverage networking capabilities directly and optimize usage of networking and computing resources in a holistic fashion.

From Application-Layer Overlays to In-Network Computing

Domain-specific distributed computing languages like LASP have gained popularity for their ability to simply express complex distributed applications like replicated key-value stores and consensus algorithms. Associated with these languages are execution frameworks like Sapphire and Ray that deal with implementation and deployment issues such as execution scheduling, layering on the network protocol stack, and auto-scaling to match changing workloads. These systems, while elegant and generally exhibiting high performance, are hampered by the daunting complexity hidden in the underlay of services that allow them to run effectively on existing Internet protocols. These services include centralized schedulers, DNS-based name translation, stateful load balancers, and heavy-weight transport protocols.

We claim that, especially for compute functions in the network, it is beneficial to design distributed computing systems in a way that allows for a joint optimization of computing and networking resources by aiming for a tighter integration of computing and networking. For example, leveraging knowledge about data location, available network paths and dynamic network performance can improve system performance and resilience significantly, especially in the presence of dynamic, unpredictable workload changes.

The above goals, we believe, can be met through an alternative approach to network and transport protocols: adopting Information-Centric Networking as the paradigm. ICN, conceived as a networking architecture based on the principle of accessing named data, and specific systems such as NDN and CCNx have accommodated distributed computation through the addition of support for remote function invocation, for example in Named Function Networking, NFN and RICE, Remote Method Invocation in ICN and distributed data set synchronization schemes such as PSync.

Introducing Compute First Networking (CFN)

We propose CFN, a distributed computing environment that provides a general-purpose programming platform with support for both stateless functions and stateful actors. CFN can lay out compute graphs over the available computing platforms in a network to perform flexible load management and performance optimizations, taking into account function/actor location and data location, as well as platform load and network performance.

We have published a paper about CFN at the ACM ICN-2019 Conference that is being presented in Macau today by Michał Król. The paper makes the following contributions:

  1. CFN marries a state-of-the art distributed computing framework to an ICN underlay through RICE, Remote Method Invocation in ICN. This allows the framework to exploit important properties of ICN such as name-based routing and immutable objects with strong security properties.
  2. We adopted the rigorous computation graph approach to representing distributed computations, which allows all inputs, state, and outputs (including intermediate results) to be directly visible as named objects. This enables flexible and fine-grained scheduling of computations, caching of results, and tracking state evolution of the computation for logging and debugging.
  3. CFN maintains the computation graph using Conflict-free Replicated Data Types (CRDTs) and realizes them as named ICN objects. This enables implementation of an efficient and failure-resilient fully- distributed scheduler.
  4. Through evaluations using ndnSIM simulations, we demonstrate that CFN is applicable to range of different distributed computing scenarios and network topologies.

Resources and Links

Written by dkutscher

September 25th, 2019 at 3:56 am

Posted in Publications

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