Approximate Networking for Universal Internet Access

Junaid Qadir, Arjuna Sathiaseelan, Umar Farooq, Muhammad Usama, Muhammad Imran, Muhammad Shafique
2017 Future Internet  
Despite the best efforts of networking researchers and practitioners, an ideal Internet experience is inaccessible to an overwhelming majority of people the world over, mainly due to the lack of cost-efficient ways of provisioning high-performance, global Internet. In this paper, we argue that instead of an exclusive focus on a utopian goal of universally accessible "ideal networking" (in which we have a high throughput and quality of service as well as low latency and congestion), we should
more » ... sider providing "approximate networking" through the adoption of context-appropriate trade-offs. In this regard, we propose to leverage the advances in the emerging trend of "approximate computing" that rely on relaxing the bounds of precise/exact computing to provide new opportunities for improving the area, power, and performance efficiency of systems by orders of magnitude by embracing output errors in resilient applications. Furthermore, we propose to extend the dimensions of approximate computing towards various knobs available at network layers. Approximate networking can be used to provision "Global Access to the Internet for All" (GAIA) in a pragmatically tiered fashion, in which different users around the world are provided a different context-appropriate (but still contextually functional) Internet experience. Future Internet 2017, 9, 94 2 of 23 this potential is being thwarted by the inability of billions of people to access the Internet. According to recent statistics, almost six billion people do not have high-speed internet, which makes them unable to fully participate in the digital economy [1] . Bringing the Internet to the remaining billions of people left without will democratize knowledge, open up new opportunities, and undoubtedly open up avenues for sustained development. The overwhelming focus of the Internet research community has been on improving the ideal networking experience by providing increasingly higher throughputs along with lower latencies. However, this focus has led to an Internet design that is very costly, which has precluded the global deployment of the Internet. We see this in wired technologies such as the modern fiber-based broadband high-speed network, which come close to providing "ideal network" performance, have largely been restricted to urban centers and advanced countries, with economical reasons (primarily the high cost of laying fiber) precluding their universal deployment. Similarly, cellular technology-despite its great success-has not been able to ensure GAIA (since it is mainly an urban phenomena that cannot be used to cost effectively serve rural and remote areas [2, 3] ). Since Internet is over-engineered for many practical applications and needs (i.e., not all applications and users of the Internet require high-fidelity Internet services), we argue that a viable GAIA-enabling approach is the use of "approximate networking", where context-appropriate trade-offs are adopted to deal with different challenges and impairments characterizing a certain region. We can loosely define approximate networks as networks that are close to ideal in terms of quality, nature, and quantity. We proposed the concept of approximate networking previously in [4] , where the presentation of the concept focused on the use of simple approximate good-enough services to tame the complexity of the networking infrastructure in a future world afflicted with hard limits due to the exhaustion of natural resources, such as fossil fuels. In this paper, we argue that apart from its clear use in reducing network complexity with the complementary benefits of more sustainable, cheaper services, approximate networking can also be used to satisfy the widely-differing and diverse user requirements by taking context-appropriate trade-offs and thereby help in realizing the vision of Global Access to the Internet for All (GAIA). Our main idea is, for universal Internet provisioning of mobile and Internet services, that it is time to move away from pursuing over-engineered "perfect products" and focus instead on developing appropriate "good enough" solutions. Our "approximate networking" idea can be thought of as the network analog of the emerging computer architectural trend called "approximate computing" [5,6], which we discuss next.
doi:10.3390/fi9040094 fatcat:flvo2uusrrde3gzckys4f45l4u