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Project 43: A Blockchain-based Approach for Truly Decentralized Internet

Suitable Majors

Computer Science

Research Area

Blockchain, Security, Networking

Internship Description

Blockchain technology is trending for various research and industrial application scenarios beyond its common usage in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Currently, blockchains address a wide range of use cases such as i) sharing computing, storage, and networking resources, ii) disseminating sensitive data in a privacy-preserving manner, and iii) replacing third-party marketplaces and broker websites. One of the reasons behind the popularity of blockchains is its immutable registry, allowing the development of trustworthy environments without relying on a central entity.

The Internet, a network of networks, is vast and composed by independent entities and can be considered a trustless decentralized environment. Personal relationships and brand recognition play a significant role in shaping up the Internet at multiple levels, from the network providers and autonomous systems composing the Internet to the end users consuming network services. While this approach has enabled proper functioning of the Internet, currently it is becoming a bottleneck in quickly reacting to the dynamics of the Internet, resulting in lack of responsiveness and inefficient resource utilization among network service providers.

We envision that these issues can be addressed with a blockchain-based approach. Ongoing research directions include, (i) establishing Internet interconnection agreements in a dynamic and automated manner, and (ii) constructing a decentralized registry of network services, where consumers can find the network service providers that are close to them. These research lines share common problems, such as, how do we ensure the correct execution of an agreement (e.g., conforming to the Service Level Agreements (SLA)) and to address the management challenges albeit not having a centralized entity.

We build real systems. That is, we build prototypes that directly improve the lives of real users. We learn general principles and valuable lessons of what works in practice. Why? The big problem is that there is really no theory of building systems. It appears these artifacts are way too complex to have a rigorous, constructive approach to dealing with them. In some sense, it is like dealing with a biological organism. They are some of the most complex systems that exist. We understand how tiny disconnected pieces operate on their own but we know little about how they interact. In the absence of a constructive theory, the typical systems person will formulate a problem, get an idea, build a prototype, measure and analyze it, tweak it, go back to building, measure again and repeat these steps over time.

Prerequisites

Candidates should be motivated to work on research-oriented problems in a fast-paced and tight-knit team. They should have a strong computing or engineering background with a good background in algorithms, computer system security and networking. Ideally, they would have experience in building and working with large software systems and tools, and proven knowledge of C++/Java/Python.

Deliverables/Expectations

The students are expected to study the existing solutions and devise theoretically-sound approaches (with the assistance of the supervisor) to improve their performance. The students will be able to also collaborate with other team members and to evaluate the mechanisms on real-world datasets on a state-of-the-art testbed. The above results, if completed, are considered novel and can result into a publication (with the agreement of the supervisor).

Other Comments

​Internship dates: 19 May to 26 July or 23 June to 29 August or 7 July to 14 September​

Division

Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering

Faculty Name

Marco Canini