DARPA spends $24M to smarten-up WAN edge

DARPA spends $24M to smarten-up WAN edge
Credit: Reuters

Officials of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) this week awarded two contracts worth a total of nearly $24 million to develop new networking and security technologies at the WAN edge.

Raytheon BBN Technologies and Vencore Labs’ Applied Communication Sciences research program pretty much evenly divided the money which DARPA expects will develop technologies that “bolster the resilience of communication over IP networks solely by instantiating new capabilities in computing devices within user enclaves at the WAN edge.”

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The awards fall under DARPA’s Edge-Directed Cyber Technologies for Reliable Mission or Edge-CT program that the agency says will combine real- time network analytics, holistic decision systems, and dynamically configurable protocol stacks to mitigate WAN failures and attacks on the fly.

“The networking research community has invested heavily in hardening network infrastructure to mitigate or prevent network events. Proposed methods include a variety of network-based DoS detection techniques, Byzantine fault tolerance algorithms, trust-based routing methodologies, algorithms for discovering configuration errors, and a variety of fast fail-over mechanisms, among many others,” DARPA stated. “Unfortunately, the specter of human error, malicious insider actions, increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks against network infrastructure, and high WAN complexity (which in turns creates complex failure modes) still constitutes a grave threat to mission communication. Therefore, new approaches to providing reliable communication are needed.”

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For the DARPA program BBN says it will create what it calls an “Intrinsically Resilient Overlay Network (IRON),” which is a gateway-based technology that improves the performance of applications that must exchange information between security enclaves over a wide-area network during faults, misconfigurations and attacks.

“The IRON nodes located in each enclave work to continually maximize Cumulative Network Utility using a mathematically well-founded, robust, low-overhead, distributed optimization approach known as Stochastic Network Optimization (SNO). BBN will extend SNO to achieve practical dynamic management of elastic and inelastic traffic on overlay networks, including traffic with transfer deadlines.”

For its part, ACS said it intends to develop what it called Distributed Enclave Defense Using Configurable Edges (DEDUCE).”

“DEDUCE is a new architectural approach to edge-directed network adaptation that incorporates novel approaches to sensing, actuation, and control, creating a robust and scalable system that exceeds EdgeCT goals and evolves in response to changes in the network,” the company stated.

DEDUCE's Real-Time Network Analytics process observations from user application packets traveling to and from edge enclaves to infer WAN characteristics needed for high-quality decision making, such as differentiating between congestion and non-congestion packet loss. DEDUCE can react and adapt flow treatments quickly in response to network events, the company said.

ACS and its partners Apogee Research, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, and Texas A&M University will develop the technology.

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