Edge Computation and the Future of Transport - RA and PhD student positions available

Edge compute infrastructure is an essential part of modern networks, but existing approaches to managing such infrastructure are complex and do not scale. Thanks to generous support from Rakuten Mobile, we're looking to appoint a Research Associate and two PhD students to work on a new research project to develop highly decentralised models for edge computation, leveraging modern network transport protocols and new programming models to manage edge compute infrastructure at scale.

One post-doctoral Research Associate position and two PhD studentships are available, working with Jeremy Singer and I at the University of Glasgow, in cooperation with Rakuten Mobile in Tokyo:

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The funding provides a stipend to cover living expenses, and will pay fees at the UK student rate. The University excellence bursaries can cover international student fees. Please contact me for further details or apply online.

The project builds on lessons learned building the FRμIT testbed. That project explored whether massive aggregation of low-cost, low-power, commodity infrastructure could form an efficient and effective compute fabric for distributed applications. A key outcome of the FRμIT testbed was an understanding that existing large-scale systems management and DevOps tools can be effective in data centre environments, but are not well-suited to managing the edge compute infrastructure.

One of the key reasons for this is network heterogeneity. A data centre network can be made uniform but an edge network, and particularly an edge network that includes devices and resources in a home environment, or systems with mobile or intermittent network connectivity, will be heterogeneous. To support ubiquitous edge computation, a management system must work with devices using different types of access link, whether fixed or mobile, and irrespective of link bandwidth, latency, or reliability. It must work across IPv4, IPv6, and non-IP networks, through NATs and in the presence of firewalls, using a range of transport protocols, and supporting edge devices that only sometimes have connectivity.

This means that the traditional ways of accessing devices to be managed will fail. The management system must rather leverage the ideas of peer to peer and delay tolerant networks, gossip protocols, and named data networks, to ensure that compute resources can receive updated software and data, and disseminate results to the wider network. And this must be done in a manner that is compatible with the current Internet, and that can be deployed over-the-top of existing networks.

Developing such a system will require innovation in transport protocols and overlay networks to ensure data can be delivered in a timely manner where necessary, and eventually where possible; and it will require new programming models, frameworks, and APIs to allow developers to manage and make effective of such a heterogeneous, distributed, edge compute fabric.

If you have experience or interest in modern Internet transport protocols, peer-to-peer or delay-tolerant networking, named data networking, or languages and programming models for large-scale distributed systems, then please get in touch – this promises to be an interesting project, with a great industrial partner.