Lab: Practical Internet eXperience II (PIX II)

Master-level hands-on lab course on how to build and evolve your own miniature Internet.

Overview

Motivation

The Internet is a fundamental backbone of today‚Äôs society and shapes how we communicate with friends, buy things, or consume entertainment. 
At the same time, the Internet is becoming increasingly complex due to increasing numbers of connected devices and newly emerging technologies such as 5G or Satellite-Internet. 
Furthermore, changing usage patterns strain the infrastructure in unexpected ways.
Thus, even experienced network operators often struggle to maintain connectivity. 
This fact is regularly demonstrated by large-scale outages of data centers and ISP networks, for example, at Facebook in October 2021, Amazon in December 2021, or Rogers in July 2022, each leading to the prolonged inaccessibility of popular platforms such as WhatsApp (Facebook), many connected services (Amazon), or even emergency numbers (Rogers).

Course Subjects

To gain first-hand experience on what it is like to manage your own Autonomous System (AS) or Content Distribution Network (CDN), this lab will give you the chance to become involved as a network operator in our mini-Internet and, by collaborating with your fellow students, you will jointly build your own miniature version of the Internet.

The lab consists of two main phases.
In the first phase (~1 month), each participant will individually setup their own AS through a number of tasks and challenges. 
For example, configuring inter-domain and BGP routing strategies will be vital for establishing interconnectivity across our mini-Internet.
The main goal of this phase is to familiarize yourselves with our infrastructure and to get first practical experience with the basics of network operation.

In the second phase, which will span the remainder of the lab (~3 months), participants will jointly work on small, individual projects in groups of four with the goal of setting up their own CDNs.
For this, each group will control an AS with attached data centers and first implement essential CDN functionality, partially guided by assignment sheets.
Thereafter, each group will gradually equip their CDNs with unique capabilities which can range from, e.g., load monitoring or visualization to custom load balancing strategies.
Each group can freely decide which functionality they would like to work on while our teaching staff will help you select functionality that can be realized given the constraints of our infrastructure and the scope of the lab.

Overall, the following technologies (and more) can be featured in this course:

- SSH to access development and testing infrastructure we will provide
- GIT as version control system
- Open vSwitch and/or P4 to realize L2 switches
- FRRouting to implement L3 routing (open source Internet routing protocol suite including BGP, OSPF, ...)
- Network measurement tools (e.g., ping and traceroute)

Further details of the course will be presented in the kickoff meeting.

Prerequisites

We expect basic knowledge in data communication as taught in the 'Data Communication' / 'Data Communication and Security' lecture. 
Additional knowledge as taught in our advanced courses (for example, on BGP, P4, or MPLS) is helpful, but not required as we will provide short introductions into the topics.
Having completed our Bachelor-level PIX course is helpful but not required as the initial phase of this lab will provide enough time for getting up to speed.

 

COMSYS also offers Research Focus Classes that (in contrast to this lab) involve doing your own independent research. 
For the upcoming winter term, we plan to offer a course on data privacy for medical research. 
Please find more information about the course as well as how to apply at https://www.comsys.rwth-aachen.de/teaching/ws-2425/rfc-on-medical-data-privacy

Acknowledgment: our lab bases on a course at ETH Zurich (https://comm-net.ethz.ch/).

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