Making many networks work as one

By Aaron Nathans
January 03, 2018

This article is from the Winter 2018 EQuad News.

Picture of Professor Jen Rexford speaking

With no central authority, the network of networks that makes up the internet manages to connect more disparate groups of people than anything else in history.

Of course, the internet’s storied lack of rules is an illusion. Volumes of technical standards undergird the system like the plumbing beneath Manhattan. One of the people who best understands this backbone is Jennifer Rexford ’91, chair of the Department of Computer Science, and a former member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Advisory Committee.

Rexford’s research examines the most efficient and stable way to transfer information through networks. Her work on the Border Gateway Protocol helped define methods to manage traffic among the tens of thousands of independent networks that make up the internet.

“You need to harness the rational behavior of each network acting in its self-interest,” said Rexford, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor in Engineering. “But you also need to deploy technology to defend against bad actors who don’t care if the internet is safe or stable.”