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Stanford Launches 'Clean Slate' Internet Lab with Deutsche Telekom and NEC

Stanford University's Clean Slate Internet Design Program, a "nothing-is-sacred" research effort launched in 2007 to rethink the global communications infrastructure, announced formation of the Clean Slate Lab, in which professors, students, research staff, and engineers will deploy prototypes of program ideas in research and operational networks. Stanford created the lab with Deutsche Telekom in Germany and NEC in Japan as the founding sponsors.

"The goal of the Clean Slate program is to reinvent the Internet to meet the needs of the future through fundamental and 'disruptive' advances, rather than incremental patches and work-arounds," said Guru Parulkar, the program's executive director. "To make enduring transformations, however, we need to test and prove our ideas in action under realistic network conditions. The Clean Slate Lab will be where we make our research ideas real."

The lab will be directed by Guido Appenzeller, a consulting assistant professor at Stanford.

The Stanford researchers are being joined by five full-time engineers--three from Deutsche Telekom and two from NEC. Including the value of the engineers' time, each company has pledged to support the lab with $750,000 a year for three years, a total of $4.5 million. The two companies are already supporters of the overall Clean Slate program, which is also supported by Cisco, NTT DoCoMo, Xilinx, and the National Science Foundation.

One initiative in the lab will be to design, prototype, deploy, and disseminate technology developed as part of a flagship project called the Programmable Open Mobile Internet 2020 (POMI 2020), which was funded in August with a $10 million National Science Foundation grant. POMI 2020 is motivated by the recognition that in the near future millions if not billions of users will carry smart handheld devices with high-speed wireless network connectivity. This constitutes a revolution, Parulkar said, that creates an opportunity for new software services and applications not seen since the advent of the World Wide Web. This will only happen, he said, if currently closed and incompatible networks are replaced with an open platform for development.

As part of the POMI 2020 effort, the lab is developing a technology called OpenFlow that makes closed and incompatible switches and routers programmable via a standardized interface. This allows researchers to write their own network services such as routing, access control, and mobility management, and to experiment with their ideas on a production network with real applications and users. The lab will also use OpenFlow to deploy a prototype system of wireless infrastructure, devices, and applications across the Stanford campus. Parulkar said he believes it will be the most comprehensive, experimental deployment of mobile technology ever performed by a university.

"NEC expects the Clean Slate Lab to create ground-breaking innovations for the future Internet infrastructure," said Toshiyuki Kanoh, GM of the NEC Central Research Lab. "NEC also hopes that research and development in the lab will improve the long-term health of the global Internet economy."

"Deutsche Telekom is fully aware of the commercial and scalability limitations of the current Internet," added Peter Möckel, head of Deutsche Telekom Laboratories. "By actively contributing to research and development in the Clean Slate Lab we are looking forward to bringing together business aspects, questions of network operation, and the latest progress of new technologies in an innovative architecture, which will be effective enough to enable sustainable economic growth and to open new business opportunities."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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