Towards an Active Network Architecture

Computer Communication Review, Vol. 26, No. 2, April 1996.


D. L. Tennenhouse and D. J. Wetherall


Active networks allow their users to inject customized programs into the nodes of the network. An extreme case, in which we are most interested, replaces packets with `capsules' -- program fragments that are executed at each network router/switch they traverse.

Active architectures permit a massive increase in the sophistication of the computation that is performed within the network. They will enable new applications, especially those based on application-specific multicast, information fusion, and other services that leverage network-based computation and storage. Furthermore, they will accelerate the pace of innovation by decoupling network services from the underlying hardware and allowing new services to be loaded into the infrastructure on demand.

In this paper, we describe our vision of an active network architecture, outline our approach to its design, and survey the technologies that can be brought to bear on its implementation. We propose that the research community mount a joint effort to develop and deploy a wide area ActiveNet.

Note - An earlier version of this paper was delivered during the keynote session of Multimedia Computing and Networking 96. This revised version supersedes the earlier one.


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