A bundle of problems

  • Lloyd Wood, Wesley M. Eddy, Peter Holliday
  • March 2009, Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • DOI: 10.1109/aero.2009.4839384

What is it about?

"Delay-Tolerant Networking" (DTN) is a neologism used for a new store-and-forward architecture and protocol suite intended for disrupted networks where there is intermittent or ad-hoc connectivity. This has been proposed as one approach to supporting delay-tolerant networks. Work in the late 1990s on the "Interplanetary Internet" forms the basis for current DTN protocols and architecture. That early work considered transport protocols robust to the hours-long propagation delays of deep-space communications. DTN is also known, primarily in military circles, as Disruption-Tolerant Networking, due to the dynamic links and outages in the military tactical environment, rather than long-delay links. In both cases, DTN technologies are well-suited to applications that are mostly asynchronous and insensitive to large variations in delivery conditions. DTN networks differ sufficiently from traditional terrestrial networks in their characteristics and connectivity that link, network and transport protocols must be carefully considered and chosen to cope with these different characteristics, or new protocols can be designed that are suited for the problems that these DTN network conditions impose. The "Bundle Protocol" exists within the DTN architecture, which sends bundles over subnet-specific transport protocols, called "convergence layers." "Bundling" has undergone a large amount of shared development and design over a period of years as a research effort. We examine the Bundle Protocol and its related architecture closely, and discuss areas where we have found that the current Bundle approach is not well-suited to many of the operational concepts that it was intended to support. Problems with the Bundle Protocol and its convergence layers exist in mechanisms for error detection and overall reliability. This weakens the Bundle Protocol’s suitability to disrupted and error-prone networks. We show that these reliability issues can lead to performance problems in DTN networks, requiring mitigation. Open research and development areas also exist with design choices in handling timing information, in determining necessary and sufficient security mechanisms, in its Quality of Service capabilities, and in other aspects of application or content identification. We show that the existing DTN bundling architecture has a number of open real-world deployment issues that can be addressed. We suggest possible remediation strategies for these weak areas of the bundle protocol that we have been working on. We also look at alternate approaches to DTN networking. Rather than only providing criticism, this paper identifies open issues, where work on modifying the Bundle Protocol is encouraged and approaches to address its various problems are suggested.


Dr Lloyd Wood
University of Surrey

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