Zhejiang Lab

The Network We Need for the Era of Digital Economy

Flying eagles, running cheetahs, swimming dolphins under the water – a variety of creatures make up the diversity of harmonious nature. In the natural world, diversity of species is a fundamental force that drives sustainable evolution and development. In contrast, a singularized and homogenous species structure would lead to its extinction. Wu Jiangxing, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Zhejiang Lab’s chief scientist in cyber security, believes that the development of networks should also follow this same principle.

Wu Jiangxing proposed a new network system named the PolymorphIc Networks Environment (PINE), as a way to break the limits of current network technologies. It will overcome the obstacles to developing diversified and multimodal networks, as well as meet the needs of network applications in the era of digital economy,

Wu presented on August 16 at the Second Zhejiang Lab International Youth Talent Forum, which focused on the borderless and boundless sharing of knowledge. He shared his interpretation of the PINE and his insights about the development of networks.

Linking Technologies to Create a New Future for Network Systems

In the beginning of his keynote speech, Wu came right to the point by identifying the problems that impede the development of networks. He believed that the natures of entities are determined by their structures, and any singularized structure is not adequate for an entity to contain inclusive functions and capabilities – a principle that should also be applied to the development of networks. He further explained that, as networks were originally developed upon basic data services, today’s TCP/IP protocol, no matter how developed it has been, is still executing its service function based on an end-to-end transmission mode. Moreover, it only supports single IP research. Its singularized and homogenous technical features have led to problems in aspects such as network performance and security.

In terms of industrial development, singularized and homogenous network technologies cannot support diversified application services due to their intrinsic flaws. This will hinder the development of the digital economy. In terms of national strategies, these flaws can create opportunities for network confrontations, which are very likely to trigger network warfare between countries and cause serious information security disasters.

Based on in-depth analysis of current network technologies, Wu proposed the PINE, a new generation of network mechanism for information communication, as a solution to existing technical problems. In recent years, we have witnessed the birth of new and diversified network technologies such as P4, Cloud, CDN, and identify mapping. If we regard these technologies as pearls, then the PINE is the necklace that links these pearls together. With a multimodal intelligent network architecture, it can support various new network technologies and break the limits caused by the traditional, singularized, and homogeneous IP network.

Four Enabling Technologies Leading Network Development in the Era of Digital Economy

It is Wu’s idea that the PINE system should be equipped with four enabling technologies: full-dimensional definability, multimodal addressing and routing, network intelligence, and endogenous security technology.

The technology of full-dimensional definability can create a basic platform of complete transparency, achieving full openness in aspects such as network element equipment, protocol control, network resources, node capabilities, network interfaces, forwarding control, and carrying modes. It can provide a ground environment for the research, testing, and application of new network architectures, which is also a prerequisite for the operation of the PINE.

Multimodal addressing and routing can be realized and developed only under an open network architecture that has full-dimensional definability. A multimodal and definable addressing mode operates upon parameters such as phone numbers, service contents, spatial coordinates, and intelligent identification. Unlike single IP addressing mode, it will greatly enrich the diversity of cyberspace, break the homogenous development of networks, and provide high-quality network transmission services for different applications.

Intelligent network management can realize the control and optimization of an entire network through intelligent management on local nodes. This is the key to improving the performance and efficacy of the PINE. Wu pointed out that, with AI technologies, we can establish an intelligent network management and control mechanism that integrates perception, decision-making, and adaptation. The entire network can be capable of intelligent perception, independent decision-making, and automatic execution. In addition, he believes that with multimodal, adjustable, dynamic, and strong connections between network nodes, the PINE can become the largest and ever-expanding BIG-AI platform.

The PINE provides solutions to security problems with a mimic structure according to the principle that: “The structure determines how safe a network can be.” Based on generalized robust control, the technology of mimic defense can largely improve security of cyberspace; any attack that takes place in the form of probing or trial and error can trigger changes in defense scenarios, and thus cause the uncertainty effect.

A Prosperous Future from a Narrow Pass to a Wide Road

When talking about the PINE’s technical goals, Wu said that it will achieve highly secured and high-precision ultra-low latency in milliseconds, as well as ultra-high Tbps-level network access rate. It will fully facilitate the integration of ground-satellite networks and development of emerging technologies such as full-sensing holography, demonstrating its power in fields such as the Internet of Vehicles, the Industrial Internet, and Intelligent Healthcare.

In Wu’s ambitious plan for the PINE, the new generation of communication infrastructure is a “white box” network that supports wide coverage in open space, regional high-density and high-capacity coverage, and mixed-rate access coverage. In the future, the distinction between space-based and ground-based networks, mobile and fixed networks, dynamic and static networks, even the concept of 6G, will no longer exist, because the PINE “will provide a diversified and integrated network environment that can maximumly inspire the innovation of network technologies and applications.”

Wu concluded that the diversified and integrated network environment created by the PINE will solve the problems of sustainable development of network systems and overcome obstacles such as singularization and homogenization.

Wu associated the PINE’s four key technologies with the idea of genes. The technology of full-dimensional definability is the PINE’s “flexible structural gene”; multimodal addressing and routing is the “polymorphic protocol gene”; network intelligence is the “performance/efficacy gene”; and endogenous security is the “structural safety gene”. With the four “genetic” technologies, the PINE will become an outstanding representative that can bring new mechanisms, new services, new intelligence, and new security features to network systems. The PINE will leave the narrow pass of the single mode that network architecture development has focused on and lead instead to a wide road that encourages the integrated development of multimodes.