ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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NeTS grant

Orchestra is funded by a 1-year grant through the NSF NeTS program.

Orchestrating the end of manual network design

Yaling Yang, Michael Hsiao, and Luiz DaSilva are building a new open architecture to revolutionize the way network engineers design, test, and create protocols for routing traffic over a network. The new architecture, Orchestra, will be able to automatically assemble and test a great variety of routing designs.

Traditional routing systems have been designed manually by network engineers, based on complex collections of objectives, policies, principles and past experiences. Due to limited human experience and capability, this design process severely impedes the evaluation and dissemination of routing research results, Yang says.

In contrast, Orchestra will store a large set of reusable “genes.” Each gene is a small piece of code that implements a particular design for a small component of a routing system. The correctness of the “genes” and their mutual compatibility are automatically verified. Orchestra assembles various routing systems from verified “genes” and then tests them, first in a simulation, then in a real network. Based on the performance of the assembled protocols, Orchestra uses evolutionary algorithms to switch and tune designs of routing components to eventually identify the best design for a network setting.

“Orchestra will greatly ease a network engineer’s burden of implementing and evaluating an entire routing system, since it can efficiently explore a much larger design space for routing systems than any single network engineer, ” Yang says. Orchestra will offer the potential to explore new territory and create routing designs that no human has ever considered. The large collection of component designs in Orchestra will also provide a common platform for comparing and evaluating different design choices.

ECE’s undergraduate curriculum will also benefit from the project. The faculty members plan to develop a new networking lab course in which students design, implement, and test real network testbeds.

Orchestra is funded by a $150,000 grant through the NSF NeTS program. Yang is the principal investigator, and Hsiao and DaSilva are serving as co-principal investigators.