Internet Protocol Success: RFC5218 analysis at Ecole Polytechnique

Last Wednesday was the day of  the “first half” of the exam in INF566 — a rather non-traditional class that I teach with Mark Townsley (and, with expert assistance of Jean-Louis Rougier  from Telecom-ParisTech) and where the goal is to understand not just protocols and technology, but also analyse why within a given problem-space, one protocol succeeded where another failed. For example, ever considered why it was that IP(v4) became ubiquitous, whereas IPX and AppleTalk withered? Why Ethernet took over the local area network, whereas TokenRing is now largely forgotten?

Among the presentations was a neat trip down memory lane Carolina de Senne Garcia and Guillaume Didier, on the topic on distributed file systems: NFS became popular, whereas the more feature-full AFS and CODA didn’t reach as far – and, today, the different cloud providers supply their own (often, proprietary) systems. Can these be considered successful according to the RFC5218 criteria? Do we even have the ability to actually evaluate that (given that they are proprietary?) That was what part of the animated and entertaining discussion that followed.

Carolina de Senne and Guillaume Didier – on the success of Distributed File Systems
Carolina de Senne and Guillaume Didier – on the success of Distributed File Systems

Leo Gaspard and Clement Durand attacked what on surface was a less historic topic: containers and VMs. VMs, not VMS — although also there, we ended up looking far back: to Plan 9 from Bell Labs (I was disappointed that the presentation had no screen-shot nor video clips from Plan 9 from Outer Space, though it did contain a relevant XKCD  …)

Clement Durand (left) and Leo Gaspard (right) on containers and jails
Clement Durand (not in the picture) and Leo Gaspard (left) on containers and jails

Sofya Samvelova, Adrian Valente, and Pierre Hennebert note that encryption (confidentiality) is not enough – and that on the Internet, also anonymity is in some contexts also a requirement — for many, many reasons.

Adrian Valente (left), Sofya Samvelova (centre), and Pierre Hennebert (right) on anonymity in the Internet.

Great presentations from a great crowd of clearly passionate and dynamic students.

The main object of todays “first half of the exam” was to evaluate the students’ ability to understand and apply RFC5218 — in a couple of weeks, the remaining half of the exam will occur: a daunting multiple choice questionnaire, with a mixture of “protocol-technology” questions, and RFC5218-related questions.