Living and Fluid Networks: The way ahead?
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The Internet is arguably the most complex infrastructure created by humankind. It is constantly and rapidly evolving to satisfy increasingly important and diverse requirements. Its underlying network infrastructure is experiencing a mutation from a transport-only, data-less, dumb infrastructure to a multifaceted and distributed system mimicking a living being and consisting of a stratum of fluidified networking and computing resources, dynamically organized and managed by more and more intelligent and autonomous algorithms, which generate and exploit increasing quantities of data, and provide customized services and applications alike everywhere. In this position paper, after a very brief historical excursus of how networks have evolved so far, we postulate that the recent advances in terms of networking technologies and their programmability improvements may provide the foundation of a future Internet where not only netputing (i.e., networking and in-network processing) services will be deployed on the fly, but even the protocols themselves that rule the Internet's operation will be dynamically adapted to the context and the needs of services and applications. Data and intelligent algorithms will be used not only to deliver personalized applications, but also to better operate the network itself. This also means that applications will be more deeply rooted within the network, so as to provide adaptive features, tailored to user needs, capable to better exploit network-generated data and functionality and to be (dynamically) instantiated (close to) where they are needed. The network will become even more pervasive and more integrated, further absorbing residual conceptual differences, e.g., between cellular/mobile and wired/core sections. Unlike for early attempts made, e.g., by active networking in the 90’ies, the time has probably now come for such a revolution.