ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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Too many routing choices can lead to catastrophe

When choosing paths to send traffic in a wireless network, designers can select from a wide selection of routing metrics, depending on specific goals and constraints. This rich collection, however, creates significant compatibility issues that can lead to disaster, according to Yaling Yang, an assistant professor of computer engineering and a networking expert.

“A combination of arbitrary, incompatible designs of routing components can create a catastrophe on a network’s normal operations, such as instability, network isolation, management difficulties, routing loops, and performance degradation,” she says. The plethora of routing designs arose when multiple organizations developed independent wireless network designs at the same time.

Professor Yaling Ying (Photograph by X)

Yaling Yang (front) and students test the possible problems of incompatibility over a multi-hop wireless mesh network

“It was a rich time of creativity and problem solving,” she says, “but now with our layers of networks and growing interconnections we need to understand the compatibility issues and develop theory and practices to avoid problems.”

Yang and co-investigator Thomas Hou have been awarded a $350,000 grant from the NSF to investigate the issue and establish a theoretical foundation for the design of compatible routing systems.

Current network compatibility knowledge is based on several IP routing protocols deployed for the Internet, she notes. The ECE team plans to move beyond traditional linear wireless routing metric design into non-linear modeling and understanding.

“We hope our work will lead to methods of developing flexible wireless routing architectures so that engineers can avoid designs that put too many restrictions on the development of routing metrics,” she says.