Verizon and Cisco are doing something new. The two companies have announced the successful test of Cisco's information-centric networking (ICN) software, a solution based on technology the vendor acquired from Xerox research company PARC just over a year ago, and for which Cisco has created an open source project with the Linux Foundation.
Per Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), the test used the ICN software to optimize mobile video delivery by routing data according to named endpoints rather than IP addresses. Verizon also showed how ICN technology could be inserted into existing IP infrastructure, and how the routing protocol could be used to direct data right alongside legacy IP traffic. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) calls this hybrid ICN.
Why is ICN important? Verizon and Cisco talk about ICN as an improvement over traditional TCP/IP networking because it helps adapt the process of content delivery to mobile conditions where a user may be moving rapidly from one cell site to another. Instead of a link remaining tethered to the initial IP address where a networking session was started, ICN enables the network to discover nearer content caches as a user changes locations.
The implications for video delivery are readily apparent. ICN should make it possible to do dynamic adaptive streaming and dynamic load balancing in a mobile network. It should both improve the viewing experience and reduce bandwidth requirements by decreasing the distance content has to travel.
But there are also implications far beyond video. The ability to do content-aware networking plays into a lot of the applications that operators expect 5G to support, including augmented reality and connected cars. Cisco SVP and CTO of Engineering Dave Ward describes it best by explaining how hybrid ICN "empowers the network edge."
"Through our co-development with Verizon," says Ward, "we found that H-ICN empowers the network edge with low latency caching and computing capabilities for the support of new revenue-generating applications such as enterprise multi-radio access, augmented and virtual reality, and IoT for 5G.”
Elsewhere, Cisco also talks about how ICN simplifies the networking process by combining mobility, security and storage all within the IP transport network. In addition to focusing on so-called "named information" rather than location identifiers, ICN also relies on virtualized ICN routers with "compute, storage and other intelligence built in."
Cisco and Verizon aren't working in a vacuum. The open source project Cisco started around ICN last year, known as the Fast Data Project (FD.io) or "The Universal Dataplane," has been subsumed under the Linux Foundation Networking Fund, which is meant to increase "collaboration and operational excellence across networking projects." The networking projects within LFN include not only FD.io, but also OpenDaylight, ONAP and others. And the membership list is a who's who of the telecom networking industry.
Could this be ICN's coming-out party?
So far it's only a lab test, but it's a lab test that Verizon is promoting, and that's significant.
See Huawei Principal Researcher Ravi Ravindran talk about ICN at Light Reading's Big Communications Event last spring: Realizing ICN as a Network Slice for Mobile Data Distribution
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading