As everything good also the MAMI project comes to an end, or actually came to an end, as it is officially over since Dec 2018. Last week we also had our final review meeting and that now really means, it’s done! I guess that’s good and bad news.
The (b/s)ad news, first of all, is that this will be last post on this blog. However, we will make sure that the webpage stays available for another few years, so you can come back read the existing posts over and over again, e.g. about PATHspider (plugin, update, and 2.0), ECN (here and here), IETF meeting reports (95, 96, ANRW-96, 97, 98, hackathon-98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103), and more meetings, events, and measurement results… also keep watching our twitter account (@mamiproject) as we will keep you posted with interesting news about Internet evolution and the usual events (IETF meetings, research conferences, and there is another edition of the MNM workshop coming up co-located with TMA’19 in Paris)!
The good news is that I think we can call the project a success. Looking back at the goals we were aiming for when we started the project three years ago, it’s not quite were we are now, but many good things have happened that we can call our achievement. The project was mainly focused on problems with protocol ossification on the Internet and subsequently arising limitations for protocol and service evolution. These problems are still there, and it was never the assumption that we could make them go away in (just) three years. However, we do understand the problem and potential solutions to it much better and many small steps have been taken.
Our initial proposal as a way forward was the introduction of a shim layer for path cooperation, where the layer boundary is also the encryption boundary to clearly separate path signaling from end-to-end information. Chances seemed promising to deploy our approach together with the introduction of a completely new transport protocol, QUIC, when we started the project but at the end it didn’t happen that way. Still the idea of a carefully designed wire image that provides explicit signals to the path has spread the word and is now defined in standards and applied by the Spin Bit in QUIC.
And then there are also a couple of lessons learnt, or let’s call it take-aways, that, I’m pretty sure of, not only the MAMI partners will further apply in their future research work and standardization efforts but that have also influenced the community as a whole in how we think about the Internet and protocol design. For example, the main take-away from the M3S workshop, that we held last year with a bunch of industry stakeholders, is that future in-network function need to be visible to the endpoints and will need consensus from both sides (also see the M3S report). That doesn’t sound like a groundbreaking insight, however, it is a change in how we designed and operated the Internet so far, as without the wide-spread deployment of encryption or at least (integrity) protection, the easiest and cheapest way has often not followed this principle.
Another effort by the MAMI project, that has impacted the way we design and discuss protocols, is our measurement work. Our approach here was always to base design decisions on measured evidence. The challenge here is not only to measure the right thing at the right point of time but to also to collect enough measurement data in order to draw a signification conclusion whether an observed impairment will be barrier for deployment or not. Good engineering decisions require not only information about the types of impairments that can arise, but estimates of the risk of encountering them on any particular type of network. Over the last three year we have performed a whole bunch of measurement studies, many of them with our own tool for path transparency measurements PATHspider that will further be used and maintained by an ex-MAMIan who is now working with the TOR project. We published our findings as papers, in blog posts, or presented them directly at standardization events (see e.g. IRTF maprg) and other industry meetings. And our results on e.g. ECN, DSCP, PMTU, or IP checksum calculation have impacted and are still impacting work in the IETF tsvwg (this, this, and this) and tcpm as well as operations directly (see cloudefare blog).
However, doing measurements is hard work and costs time and money. Therefore we always had this vision of utilizing the measurement data as a whole that we have collected as a community over so many years. This idea has driven the work on our own repository system, called the Path Transparency Observatory (PTO), as well as the commitment of some of the MAMI partners to support and drive efforts to increase repeatability and reproduciblility of measurement results or actually research results in general in the CS networking community (see here, here, and here).
So while we will all not work together as a project anymore (and distribute nice stickers and M&Ms), you can see that the work of the project will not stop with end of the project funding. I think I can well speak for everybody in the project and say that we really enjoyed working together and are at least a little proud of what we have achieved in the last three years. Thanks for everybody who has worked on the project, as well as our “MAMI friends” who have not only joint us for many fun dinners and lunches (e.g. see draft beer tour in Berlin) but also collaboratively worked with us (see post socket/taps) or provided good and valuable advise (e.g. the EAB)! Other than that, all that’s left to say is: keep enjoying our stickers if you still have some and see you soon no matter what!