The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) has launched the Information-Centric Networking Research Group (ICNRG), co-chaired by Ericsson, to aid the transition from a box-oriented to a content-oriented internet architecture.


The ICNRG is chaired by Börje Ohlman, Senior Researcher at Ericsson Research, together with Dirk Kutscher from NEC and Dave Oran from Cisco. The group gathered for the first time at the end of July.

“Ericsson’s leading role in the ICNRG will give us the opportunity to influence the direction of research on future networking architectures,” Ohlman says.

Several new data-distribution technologies have emerged in response to increasing internet traffic volumes caused by mobile video, cloud computing and other factors. These technologies include peer-to-peer and content delivery networks (CDNs), which promote a communication model in which data is accessed by name, regardless of origin server location. Information-centric networking (ICN) is an approach to evolving internet infrastructure that involves directly supporting this model by introducing uniquely named data as a core internet principle. Data becomes independent from location, application, storage, and means of transportation, enabling in-network caching and replication.

Börje Ohlman

“The purpose of the ICNRG is mainly to facilitate collaboration and exchange of ideas and discussions in the ICN field, and to bring results from this research into the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standardization process,” Ohlman says.

Those working on the ICN research face several challenges, according to Ohlman. One of these is to introduce a flexible naming scheme that is secure and supports mobility but that also allows for scalable name resolution, based on object names rather than references to boxes. “Based on work carried out in the European Commission’s 7th Framework Program (FP7) Scalable and Adaptive Internet Solutions (SAIL) project, we’ve made good progress here,” he says. One of the first results has been an active internet-draft document called Naming Things with Hashes (draft-farrell-decade-ni-10), which the IETF recently accepted as a standards-track Request for Comments.

Ohlman adds that other ICN research challenges include developing scalable routing schemes, dealing with congestion control, establishing caching strategies and security and privacy methods, as well as developing metrics for the consistent evaluation of ICN implementations.

With ICN, network-traffic patterns will change, Ohlman explains. “Data will be made available to applications through caching at the network edges rather than by moving it back and forth through the core network.”

Ohlman says the ICN technology will also benefit telecom operators because it provides functionality such as peer-to-peer and CDN as basic services.