Network Coding Research Group K. Matsuzono
Internet-Draft H. Asaeda
Intended status: Informational NICT
Expires: March 15, 2019 C. Westphal
September 11, 2018

Network Coding for Content-Centric Networking / Named Data Networking: Requirements and Challenges


This document describes the current research outcomes regarding Network Coding (NC) for Content-Centric Networking (CCN) / Named Data Networking (NDN), and clarifies the requirements and challenges for applying NC into CCN/NDN.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Information-Centric Networks in general, and Content-Centric Networking (CCN) [15] or Named Data Networking (NDN) [16] in particular, have emerged as a novel communication paradigm advocating to retrieve data through their names. This paradigm pushes content awareness into the network layer. It is expected to enable consumers to obtain the content they desire in a straightforward and efficient manner from the heterogenous networks they may be connected to. The CCN/NDN architecture has introduced innovative ideas and has stimulated research in a variety of areas, such as in-network caching, name-based routing, multi-path transport, content security, and so on. One key benefit of requesting content by name is that it removes the need to establish a session between the client and a specific server, and that content can thereby be retrieved from multiple sources.

In parallel, there has been a growing interest from both academia and industry to better understand fundamental aspects of Network Coding (NC) toward enhancing key system performance metrics such as data throughput, robustness and reduction in the required number of transmissions through connected networks, point-to-multipoint connections, etc. Typically, NC is a technique mainly used to encode packets to recover lost source packets at the receiver, and to effectively get the desired information in a fully distributed manner. In addition, NC can be used for security enhancements [2][3][4][5].

NC aggregates multiple packets with parts of the same content together, and may do this at the source or at other nodes in the network. As such, network coded packets are not connected to a specific server, as they may have evolved within the network. Since NC focuses on what information should be encoded in a network packet, rather than the specific host where it has been generated, it is in line with the CCN/NDN core networking layer (described in more detail later on). NC has already been implemented for information/content dissemination (e.g. [6][7][8]). NC provides CCN/NDN with the highly beneficial potential to effectively disseminate information in a completely independent and decentralized manner. [9] first suggested to exploit NC techniques to enhance key system performances in ICN, and others have considered NC in ICN use cases such as content dissemination [10], seamless mobility [11], joint caching and network coding [12][13], low-latency video streaming [14], etc.

In this document, we consider how NC can be applied to the CCN/NDN architecture and describe the requirements and potential challenges for making CCN/NDN-based communications better using the NC technology. Please note that providing specific solutions (e.g., NC optimization methods) to enhance CCN/NDN performance metrics by exploiting NC is out of scope of this document.

2. Terminology

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

2.1. Definitions

The terminology regarding NC used in this document is described below. It is aligned with RFCs produced by the FEC Framework (FECFRAME) IETF Working Groups as well as recent activities in the Network Coding Research Group [18].

Concerning CCN/NDN, the following terminology and definitions are used.

2.2. NDN/CCN Background

Armed with the terminology above, we briefly explain the key concepts of CCN/NDN. Both protocols are similar in principle, and different on some implementation choices.

In a CCN network, there are two types of packets at the network level: interest and data. The consumer request a content by sending an "interest" message, that carries the name of the data. On difference to note here in CCN and NDN is that in later versions of CCN, the interest must carry a full name, while in NDN it may carry a name prefix (and receive in return any data with a name matching this prefix).

Once a router receives an "interest" message, it performs a series of look-up: first it checks in the Content Store if it has a copy of the requested content available. If it does, it returns the data and the transaction has successfully completed.

If it does not, it performs a look-up of the PIT to see if there is already an outgoing request for the same data. If there is not, then it creates an entry in the PIT that lists the name included in the interest, and the interfaces from which it received the interest. This is used later to send the data back, since interest packets do not carry a source field that identifies the requester. If there is already a PIT entry for this name, then it is updated with the incoming interface of this new request and the interest is discarded.

After the PIT look-up, the interest undergoes a FIB lookup to select an outgoing interface. The FIB lists name prefixes and their corresponding forwarding interfaces, to send the interface towards a router that possesses a copy of the requested data.

Once a copy of the data is retrieved, it is send back to the requester(s) using the trail of PIT entries; intermediate node remove the PIT state every time that an interest is satisfied, and may store the data in their content store.

Data packets carry some information to validate the data, in particular that the data is indeed the one that corresponds to the name. This is required since authentication of the object is crucial in CCN/NDN. However, this step is optional at intermediate routers, so as to speed up the processing.

The key aspect of CCN/NDN is that the consumer of the content does not establish a session with a specific server. Indeed, the node that returns the content is not aware of the network location of the requester and the requester is not aware of the network location of the node that provides the content. This in theory allows the interests to follow different paths within a network, or even to be sent over totally different networks.

3. Advantage given by NC and CCN/NDN

Both NC for large scale content dissemination [7] and CCN/NDN can contribute to effective content/information delivery while working jointly. They both bring similar benefits such as throughput/capacity gain and robustness enhancement. The difference between their approaches is that, the former considers content flow as algebraic information to combine [17], while the latter focuses on content/information itself at the networking layer. Because these approaches are complementary, it is natural to combine them. The CCN/NDN core abstraction at networking layer through name makes network stack simple as it enables applications to take maximum advantage of multiple simultaneous connectivities due to its simpler relationship with the layer 2 [15].

CCN/NDN itself, however, cannot provide reliable and robust content dissemination. This requires some specific CCN/NDN transport (i.e., strategy layer) [15]. NC can enable the CCN/NDN transport system to effectively distribute and cache data associated with multi-path data retrieval. Furthermore, NC may further enhance CCN/NDN security [23]. In this context, it should be natural that there is much room for considering NC integration into CCN/NDN transport exploiting in-network caching and multi-path transmission [9] and seamless mobility [11][29].

From the perspective of NC transport mechanism, NC is divided into two major categories: one is coherent NC, and the other is non-coherent NC [31]. In coherent NC, source and destination nodes exactly know network topology and coding operations at intermediate nodes. When multiple consumers are trying to receive the same content such as live video streaming, coherent NC could enable the optimal throughput by making the content flow sent over the constructed optimal multicast trees [24].

However, it requires fully adjustable and specific name-based routing mechanism for CCN/NDN, and an intense computational task for central coordination. In the case of non-coherent NC that often utilizes RLC, they do not need to know network topology and intermediate coding operations [25]. Since non-coherent NC works in a completely independent and decentralized manner, this approach is more feasible especially in the large scale use cases that are intended with CCN/NDN. This document thus focuses on non-coherent NC with RLC.

4. Requirements

This section presents the NC requirements for ICN/CCN in terms of network architecture and protocol. The current document focuses on NC in a block coding manner.

4.1. Content Naming

Naming content objects is as important for CCN/NDN as naming hosts is for today's Internet [19]. Before performing network coding for specified content in CCN/NDN, the overall content should be split into small content objects to avoid packet fragmentation that could cause unnecessary packet processing and degrades throughput. The size of content objects should be within the allowable packet size so as to avoid packet fragmentation in CCN/NDN network, and then network coding should be applied into a set of the content objects.

Each coded packet MAY have a unique name as the original content object has in CCN/NDN, since PIT/FIB/CS operations need a unique name to identify the coded data. As a way of naming coded packet, the encoding vector and the identifier of generation can be used as a part of the content object name [10]. For instance, when the block size (also called generation size) is k and the encoding vector is [1,0,0,0], the name would be like / This naming scheme is simple and can support the delivery of coded packets with exactly the same operations in the FIB/PIT/CS as for original source packets. However, such a naming way requires the consumer to know the naming structure (through a specific name resolution scheme for instance) in order for nodes to specify the exact name of generated coded data packet to retrieve it. From this point of view, it could shift the generation of the encoding vector from the content producer onto the content requester.

If a naming schema such as above is used, it would be valuable to reconsider whether Interest should carry full names (as in CCN) or prefixes (as in NDN) as multiple network coded packets could match a response to a specific prefix for a given generation, such as / In the latter case allowing partial name matching, the content requestor may not be able to obtain degrees of freedom. Thus, extensions in the TLV header of the Interest would be used to specify further network coding information so as to limit coded packets to be received (for instance, by specifying the encoded vectors the content requestor receives (also called decoding matrix) as in [9]). However, it may incur a largely increased size of TLV header. Without such coding information, the forwarding node would need to maintain some records regarding interest packets sent before, in order to provide new degrees of freedom.

Coded packet MAY have a name that indicates that it is a coded packet, and move the coding information into a metadata field in the payload (i.e., the name includes only data type, original or coded packet, etc). This however would preclude network coding on packets without prior decoding them (for instance, in the CS of forwarding nodes). It would not be beneficial for applications or services that may not need to understand the packet payload. Due to the possibility that multiple coded packets may have a same name, as described above, some mechanism needs for the content requestor to obtain innovative coded packets. It would also require some mechanism to insert the multiple innovative packets into the CS. If the coding information of coded packet are encrypted together with the payload (for instance, at source coding), the content requestor or forwarding nodes would incur extra computational overhead for decryption of the packet to interpret the coding information.

4.2. Transport

The pull-based request-response feature of CCN/NDN is the fundamental principle of its transport layer; one Interest retrieves at most one Data packet. It is important to not violate this rule, as it would open denial of service attacks issues, and thus the following basic operation should be considered to apply NC to CCN/NDN.

4.2.1. Scope of Network Coding

It should be discussed whether the network can update data packets that are being received in transit, or if only the data that matches an interest can be subject to network coding operations. In the latter case, the network coding is performed on an end-to-end basis (where one end is the consumer, and the other end is any node that is able to respond to the Interest). In the former case, NC happens anywhere in the network that is able to update the data. As CCN/NDN has mechanisms in place to ensure the integrity of the data during transfer, NC in the network introduce complexities that would require special consideration for the integrity mechanisms to still work.

Similarly, caching of network coded packets at intermediate node may be valuable, but may prevent the node caching the coded content to validate the content.

4.2.2. Consumer Operation

To attain NC benefits associated with in-network caching, consumers need to issue interests directing the router (or publisher) to forward innovative coded packets if available. The reason why this directive is needed is that delay-sensitive applications such as live-video streaming may want to sequentially get original packets rather than coded packets cached in routers due to real-time constraint. Issuing such an interest is possible by using optional TLV (Type Length Value) header contained in Interest TLV packet format which allows network elements to add or modify information on the fly. Consumer can put an instruction into it, and for instance, if routers detect that it is better for consumer to get coded packets rather than original packets, routers can modify it to do so. After receiving interests having the instruction in optional header, the router with useful coded packets forward them.

As another solution, consumer issues interests specifying unique names for each coded packets. In this case, a unified naming scheme considering both original and coded packets is required. Moreover, in the case of NC end-to-end approach, publishers need to get feedback from the corresponding receivers to adjust some coding parameters. To deal with this, a receiver may have to request a specific interest name to reach the corresponding publisher and put required information into the optional header.

4.2.3. Router Operation

Routers need to appropriately handle PIT entries to accommodate interests for coded packets as well as original packets. Moreover, in order to decode as necessary, nodes need to know the coding vector used for each coded packet (note: since all the data for a specific content may not come through the same path/network, intermediate nodes may never be able to decode). In a typical case, the coding vector used for each coded packet is attached to the header of coded data. In regard to this point, the generation size (also called block size) for NC should be set to a reasonable value so that the total coded packet size including header needed for expressing the coding vector information and data message fits into the allowable packet size. It may be useful to use compression techniques for coding vectors [20][21].

Router may try to forward useful independent coded packets toward downstream nodes in order to respond to received interests for coded packets. Routers thus need to determine whether or not they can generate useful coded packets for consumers. Assuming that the size of the Finite Field in use is not relatively small, re-encoding using enough cached packets has a strong probability of making independent coded packets [24]. If router does not have enough cached packets to newly produce independent coded packets, it relays received interests to upstream nodes to receive a new original or independent coded packet and pass it to downstream nodes. In another possible case, when receiving interests for only original packets, routers may try to decode and get all the original packets and store them (if there are fully available cache capacity), enabling faster response to the interests. Since there is a tradeoff between NC encoding/decoding calculation cost and cache capacity, and the usage efficacy of re-encoding or decoding at router, router should need to determine how to response to receiving interests according to the use case (e.g., delay-sensitive or delay-tolerant application) and the router situation such as available cache space and computational capability.

Some proposed schemes [10] require that the router maintain a tally of the interests for a specific name and generation, so as to know how many degrees of freedom have been provided already for the NC packets. Scalability and practicality of maintaining such scheme at intermediate routers should considered.

To enable fast loss recovery cooperating with in-network caching, a transport mechanism of in-network loss detection and recovery [29][14] at router as well as consumer-driven mechanism should be considered.

4.2.4. Publisher Operation

The procedure for splitting an overall content into small content objects is responsible for the original publisher. When applying NC for the content, the publisher performs NC over the content objects, and naming processing for the coded packets. If the producer takes the lead in determining the used encoding vectors and generating the coded packets, there are the two possible end-to-end cases; 1) content requestors obtain the names of coded packets through a certain mechanism, and send the correspond interests toward the publisher to get the coded packets already generated at the publisher, and 2) the publisher determines the encoding vectors after receiving interests specifying them. In the former case, although content requestors cannot flexibly specify an encoding vector for generating the coded packet to retain, but the latency for getting the coded data can be reduced compared to the latter case where additional NC operations need after receiving interests. According to application requirement for latency, such NC operation strategy should be considered.

4.3. In-network Caching

Caching is an essential technique to improve throughput and latency in various applications. In-network caching CCN/NDN essentially supports at network level is highly beneficial by exploiting NC to enable effective multicast transmission [30], multipath data retrieval [10][11], fast loss recovery [14], and so on. However, there are several issues to be considered.

As a general issue, there are limitations of cache capacity, and caching policy affects on consumer's performances [22][26][27]. It is thus highly significant for routers to determine which packets should be cached and discarded. Since delay-sensitive applications often do not require in-network cache for a long period due to their real-time constraints, routers have to know the necessity for caching received packets to save the caching volume. This could be possible by putting a flag into optional header of data packets at publisher side. When receiving data packets with the flag meaning no necessity for cache, routers just have to forward them to downstream nodes. On the other hand, when receiving original packets or coded packets without the flag, router may cache them based on a specified replacement policy.

One key aspect of in-network caching is whether or not intermediate nodes can cache NC packets without first decoding them. If in-network caches store coded packets, they need to be able to validate that the packets are not compromised, so as to avoid cache pollution attacks. Without having all the packets in a generation, the cache cannot decode the packets to check if it is authenticated. Caching of coded packets would require some mechanism to validate coded packets. In addition, when coded packets have a same name, it would also require some mechanism to identify them.

4.4. Seamless Mobility

This subsection presents how NC can achieve seamless mobility [11][29] and clarify the requirements. A key feature of CCN/NDN is that it is sessionless and that multiple interests can be send to different copies of the content in parallel. CCN/NDN enables a consumer to retrieve the content from multiple sources that are distributed and asynchronous.

In this context, network coding provide a mechanism to ensure that the Interests sent to multiple copies of the content retrieve innovative packets, even in the case of packet losses on some of the paths/networks to these copies. NC adds a reliability layer to CCN in a distributed and asynchronous manner. One key benefit is that the link between the consumer and the multiple copies acts as a virtual logical link, upon which rate adaptation mechanism can be performed.

This naturally applies to mobility event, where the consumer may connect between multiple access points before a mobility event (make-before-break handoff). In such mobility event, the consumer is connected first to the previous access point, then to both the previous and next access points, then finally only to the next access points. With CCN, the consumer only sends interests on the available interfaces. Requesting network coded packets ensures that during the phase where it is connected to the previous and the next APs at the same time, it does not receive duplicate data, but does not miss on any content either. By combining NC with CCN, the consumer receives additional degrees of freedom with any innovative packet it receives on either interface.

Further discussion is [TBD].

4.5. Security and Privacy

This subsection describes the requirement for security and privacy provided by NC in CCN/NDN, such as data integrity especially when intermediate nodes perform re-encoding, as in the case of hash restrictions for original data packets, and so on.

Network coding impacts the security mechanisms of CCN/NDN. In particular, CCN/NDN is designed to prevent modification of the Data packets. Because Data packets for a specific name can be self-authenticated, they can be validated on the delivery path, and can also be cached at untrusted intermediate nodes. Network coding may bring up issues if intermediate nodes are allowed to modify packets by performing additional network coding operations. Intermediate nodes may also be caching network coded packets without having the ability to perform validation of the content and therefore open themselves to cache pollution attacks.

In CCN/NDN, content objects can be encrypted to support access control or privacy. If the coding information of coded packet is included in the encrypted data payload, extra computational overhead occurs.

5. Challenges

This section presents several primary challenges and research items to be considered when applying NC into CCN/NDN.

5.1. Adopting Convolutional Coding

Several block coding approaches have been proposed so far, but there is still no sufficient discussion and application of convolutional coding approach (e.g., sliding or elastic window coding) in CCN/NDN. Convolutional coding is often appropriate to situations where a fully or partially reliable delivery of continuous data flows is needed, especially when these data flows feature realtime constraints. As in [32] on an end-to-end basis, it would be advantageous for continuous content flow to adopt sliding window coding in CCN/NDN. In this case, the publisher needs to appropriately set coding parameters and let content requestor know the information, and content requestor needs to send interest (i.e., feedback information) about the data reception status. Since CCN/NDN advocates hop-by-hop communication, it would be worth discussing and investigating how convolutional coding can be applied in a hop-by-hop fashion and the benefits. In particular, assuming that NC could occur at intermediate nodes with some useful data packets stored in the CS as described in the previous section, both the encoding window and CS management would be required, and the feasibility and practicality should be considered.

5.2. Rate and Congestion Control

Adding redundancy using coded packets may cause further network congestion and adversely affect overall throughput performance. In particular, in a situation where fair bandwidth sharing is more desirable, each streaming flow must adapt to the network conditions to fairly consume the available link bandwidth. It is thus indispensable that each content flow cooperatively implements congestion control to adjust the consumed bandwidth to stabilize the network condition (i.e., to achieve low packet loss rate, delay, and jitter).

5.3. Security and Privacy

A variety of security and privacy concerns would exist in NC and CCN/NDN. This subsection focuses on the description of security and privacy challenges related to NC for CCN/NDN. [TBD]

5.4. Routing Scalability

This subsection focuses on the challenges of routing mechanisms such as scalability and protocol overhead, and so on.

6. Security Considerations

This document does not impact the security of the Internet. Security considerations related to NC for CCN/NDN are described in the previous Section.

7. References

7.1. Normative References

[1] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997.

7.2. Informative References

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[19] Kutscher, et al., D., "Information-Centric Networking (ICN) Research Challenges", RFC 7927, July 2016.
[20] Thomos, N. and P. Frossard, "Toward one Symbol Network Coding Vectors", IEEE Communications letters, vol. 16, no. 11, November 2012.
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Authors' Addresses

Kazuhisa Matsuzono National Institute of Information and Communications Technology 4-2-1 Nukui-Kitamachi Koganei, Tokyo 184-8795 Japan EMail:
Hitoshi Asaeda National Institute of Information and Communications Technology 4-2-1 Nukui-Kitamachi Koganei, Tokyo 184-8795 Japan EMail:
Cedric Westphal Huawei 2330 Central Expressway Santa Clara, California 95050 USA EMail: