NLANR's Internet Enginering Curriculum

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 4 Jun 1997 15:54:04 -0400

This is a COOL effort, motivated by the right reasons. I can't say anything
about the expected results, or actual repository (haven't seen anything
yet), but I'm glad someone is reacting to the same vacuum I found when
searching for grad schools: everyone who knows Internet technology is out
there doing something (other than teaching and pure research)...



Introduction and Background
Ensuring the most intelligent evolution of the dynamic Internet
infrastructure is tied to getting both broad and deep study of that
challenging environment into the classroom. Several times in the past two
years, and more and more frequently, components of the network have
collapsed under the weight of the traffic. As ever more complex and
compute-intensive applications involving audio, video, and 3-D
visualization are loaded onto a system already severely strained, the
prospect of catastrophic breakdowns looms.
What is being taught in networking courses at most American universities is
not out-of-date by most standards. It's "hot off the press." The
information in textbooks is only three or four years old, and the ancillary
readings are even newer.
But ask which students are familiar with interactions among the
communications protocol layers, the effects of cell switching on current
Internet environments, accommodating diverse service qualities,
hierarchically coded multimedia data streams, or reservation of network
bandwidth, and you will find that these topics, only a year or so old in
the Internet engineering community, are not treated at all or barely
mentioned. The same question might be asked of Internet engineers already
in the field who are faced with continually changing technologies and
technical advances. While such a gap can be tolerated in most sciences, it
must be erased as quickly as possible in this field, because leaving the
network's foundations at risk is a costly proposition.
The community of up-to-date individuals is very small, and teaching is
typically not one of their priorities. They are holding their fingers in
the dike, substituting tirelessness for the infusion of engineering talent
needed for real solutions. Most of them belong to the Internet Engineering
Task Force (IETF). A handful of the several hundred IETF participants are
also instructors in engineering and computer science departments at major
universities. In the classroom, they are waging separate and isolated
battles to include more timely topics in their curricula. We believe it
serves the long-term interests of advanced networking research to improve
this situation by applying the object of study itself to multiply the
efforts of this group.

Proposed Research
UCSD proposes to sponsor NLANR coordination and operation of a Web-based
`living repository' for Internet engineering. This project is not
attempting to define the beginning and end of an Internet engineering
curriculum, but rather use the Web as a collaborative resource to which
instructors and practitioners contribute their knowledge and from which
this knowledge will be distributed to the wider Internet engineering
Such a repository will contain unpublished classroom materials, published
research papers, problem sets and solutions, real network statistics,
software tools for Internet engineering analysis and for distance learning,
and possibly even real-time conferencing on Internet breakdowns as they
happen. Unlike a published book, a Web repository offers the advantages of
continual expansion, revision, reorganization, and revitalization.