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 Projects and Studies
Strategic Study in the Impacts of Active Networks
For further information please contact:

Magnus Krampell
Project Supervisor
Wieblinger Weg 19/4
69123 Heidelberg, Germany

Project Information
What is this Project about

Active Network refers to a set of concepts which aim to make wide area systems more flexible. The original Active Network proposal (Tennenhouse) envisaged achieving the flexibility by embedding programs in packets. The proposal has now led to the emergence of a world-wide community working on a much broader range of technologies which are still loosely described as "Active Networks". This community is characterised by the fact that all members are explicitly considering/requiring "in service change" of software.

The technologies under consideration include;

  • the original proposal by (Tennenhouse) which is now referred to as "strong active networking"
  • "weak active networking" including IETF activities in the DiffServ working group
  • "active services" proposed by (McCanne et al.)
  • application layer active networking (BT- UTS) and others

There are close parallels with the older programmable network proposals (e.g. OpenSIG - Columbia and Cambridge Universities)

In all of the above approaches customisation is envisaged to be performed by small programs created/injected by clients (users, domain management or programs acting on their behalf) and distributed to "active nodes" of the network (not all nodes need to be "active"). Functionality can be distributed in advance or on demand, using either "inband" or "outband" mechanisms.

The benefits claimed for the Active Network ideas include easy upgrade of router capabilities, particularly multicast, better support for mobility, rapid introduction of new services, QoS support, flexible means of partitioning, flexible charging mechanisms and improved management abilities.

The Active Network concept will affect resources, which are not currently regarded as configurable. The consequences of these ideas are therefore potentially extremely significant, especially when considering the network services provided to the customers.

Some of the ideas seem to be very practical and will be likely to have implementations in a relatively short term (e.g. improvement of the proxy and firewall efficiency), and appear to be supported by some equipment vendors. Other ideas are more speculative in nature (client code injected into the network in a IP-packet).


The main objectives of this Study are to:

  • Clarify the Active Network concepts, particularly in the context of IP networking
  • Outline scenarios describing the possible penetration of Active Network technologies into TelCos’ interest spheres
  • Evaluate benefits and estimate the impacts of Active Network technologies and identify what major changes in existing businesses might be expected.
  • Discuss whether or not Active Networks provide the basis for unexpected new markets, potential players and their possible intentions and existing power to achieve their goals, or regularity events.
  • Suggest further actions/work to prepare the possible introduction of Active Network technologies to TelCos. Especially the need for interoperability related work will be considered
Project Results

The project presented a paper at IWAN'99, The proceedings is available as Springer Verlag Lecture Notres in Computer Science, no. 1653

The Project also proposed a follow-on activity - the CASPIAN project.

Deliverable Title  No Planned issue date
The Impacts of Active Network Technologies D1 published


Project Information
Project Leader and Contractor Code: Arto Juhola. AF
Project Supervisor: Magnus Krampell
Project Participants: AF, BT, DT, TI
Project Start Date: 1 October 1998
Project Completion Date: 19 April 1999