European telecommunication testbeds
Visions and initiatives
Testbeds are becoming key to research and development of innovative networks, applications and services in telecommunications. The growing complexity of telecoms networks and the increasing need to take socio-economic aspects into account have led to intensive collaborative testbed efforts in Europe.
Strong push in FP7
The European Commission and a number of leading players in European ICT research are pushing the vision of large-scale, federated testbeds in telecommunications. The Commission’s FP7 ICT work programme for 2009-2010 gives high priority to the building of a federated testbed facility for Future Internet Research and Experimentation (FIRE) as an important objective in Europe’s efforts for defining the Internet of the Future. There are several reasons for promoting experimentally driven research. It will help to provide proof of concept for theoretical network research, and it will help to streamline research efforts through iterative cycles of research, experimentation, and validation.
Main driver Internet
The Internet is definitely the most important field, in which a large-scale, European testbed is urgently needed. The Internet has evolved into a critical infrastructure for our society. However, the basic architecture of today’s Internet is 30 years old and has never been designed to be a critical infrastructure for all sectors and all kinds of human interaction. Thus, a change of the Internet as we know it will be inevitable. It can be either evolutionary or revolutionary or a combination of both.
Whatever the way forward will be, developing innovative architectures, applications and services for the Internet will have three major dimensions: technological, socio-economic, and regulatory. In order to check the feasibility of novel Internet concepts, all three dimensions have to be taken into account. The vision is that large-scale European testbeds will enable the multidisciplinary testing of all three dimensions in a way that is as close as possible to real-life conditions.
There are plenty of technological challenges that require testing. The convergence of fast optical networks with mobile networks and sensor networks will lead to highly complex systems.
The socio-economic challenges of the Future Internet are no less demanding. Issues of security, accountability, and privacy as well as the economic effects of new technologies need to be closely examined.
Finally, experimental facilities and real-life testing scenarios for the Future Internet also have to take into account regulatory aspects, particularly consumer protection, privacy regulations, and national security.
First steps in FP6
Already in EU Framework Programme 6 (FP6), some European research projects, such as Panlab, OneLab, and VITAL, have explored concepts for large-scale, federated testing. In addition, an expert group on Future Internet Research and Experimentation (FIRE) has drafted recommendations that influenced the new FP7 ICT work programme. There are two major trends in large-scale testing of complex systems as envisaged in the FIRE concept: federation of existing physical testing resources and virtualisation of testing resources. Future European projects will continue to work towards a Europe-wide testbed facility that will utilise these concepts.
Requirements for federated testbeds
There are a number of requirements for federated European testbeds. They have, for instance, to support experimentation that is cutting across several domains, and they have to enable the broad involvement of large user communities.
Further characteristics of a future FIRE testing facility are that it enables design, prototyping and experimentation with advanced paradigms and architectures for the Future Internet and that it allows going beyond the connectivity layer, including, for example, the service layer, in addressing the Future Internet.
Furthermore, the future FIRE testing facility should be designed to enable a continuous feedback loop between advanced research and large-scale experimentation. Finally, it should be designed in way that enables the effective involvement of end-users and standardised ways for socio-economic evaluations.
There are still many issues to be tackled on the way towards a European federated testbed respectively a FIRE facility.
A sustainable model for operating the FIRE facility needs to be defined and put into practice. Then, the FIRE facility needs a critical mass of participants to be attractive for testbed users. Furthermore, the federation mechanisms for testbeds, as for example proposed by Panlab, have to be deployed and put into practice in a way that avoids duplication, but fosters synergies and, thus, increase the quality of testing.
Europe in the global contextThere are a number of initiatives worldwide, which are similar to Europe’s FIRE initiative. In the USA, there are the GENI and FIND programmes funded by the NSF, which also include experimental research via large-scale testbeds. In Japan, the AKARI Project works on new network architectures, using a similar approach that includes experimental research. As the Internet is and will remain a global network, Europe will cooperate with other testbed initiatives in the Future Internet area. Today, Europe appears to have a strong position in the area of federated testbeds. If the FIRE facility will be implemented as a federated, large-scale testbed within the next three years, Europe will have good prospects for a technological lead in regard to the Future Internet and other areas of telecommunications.
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