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Strengthening the Internet with Enhanced IP Capabilities

Cloud and AI is poised to boost industry digitalization through IP networks + scenario-based innovation.

By Tang Xinbing, CTO, Data Communication Product Line, Huawei

Brian Carpenter, author of "Architectural Principles of the Internet (RFC 8799)”, recently published a new article titled “Limited Domains and Internet Protocols (RFC 8799)”. The article has made limited domains a new trend that’s gaining traction in the Internet technology community.

In the article, Carpenter said that, "There is a tendency when new protocols and protocol extensions are proposed to always ask the question 'How will this work across the open Internet?'"

According to Carpenter, this is not always the right question, "There are protocols and extensions that are not intended to work across the open Internet." On the contrary, their requirements and semantics are specifically limited, as there are tens of billions of nodes that connect directly and indirectly to the Internet. While it’s clearly desirable to use common solutions wherever possible, it’s increasingly difficult to do so to satisfy widely varying requirements. For example, the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks used in connected vehicle and industrial control domains and the enterprise networks used for cross-regional and multi-campus interconnection have their own specific requirements. The solutions, technologies, and protocols used to satisfy these requirements only need to work within specific limited domains.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) requires that protocol innovation is deployed across the whole Internet on a global scale. However, this requirement is so high that it may restrain some scenario-based innovation that enhances partial capabilities.

Over the course of industry digitalization, we have noticed that the idea of limited domains can be used to enhance some IP network capabilities. That means providing enhanced IP capabilities in limited domains to turn non-IP devices into IP devices. This provides a new way for the scenario-based innovation of IP network technology. With the wide application of new technologies, such as 5G, cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, and machine vision, IP WANs open the door for industries to benefit from cloud and AI technologies. Industry digitalization scenarios require real-time data collection, aggregation, and accurate analysis, based on which enterprises can adjust production and transactions.

For example, although industrial cameras can greatly boost the quality inspection efficiency of production lines, they must be deployed on the production line. Therefore, industrial cameras can only rely on industrial buses to collect and analyze data and deliver braking instructions over the LAN. This makes it difficult to implement remote control and use cloud technology to improve computing efficiency.

In another example, Industry 4.0 proposes separating the logic control, program storage, and I/O modules of programmable logic controllers (PLCs). It instead recommends optimizing PLCs' logic control programs by using data analytics on the cloud and adjusting the actions of I/O modules in real time to improve industrial production efficiency and manufacturing flexibility. This requires latency levels normally achieved with an industrial bus from the IP WAN, not just LAN. Conventional IP networks cannot meet this latency requirement, and it’s only possible with enhanced IP capabilities such as deterministic IP WAN.

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However, deploying this level of enhanced IP capability across the open Internet is neither necessary nor possible. If we provide specific enhanced IP capability sets in limited domains for specific scenarios to meet scenario-specific requirements, then the originally non-IP-based devices can become IP-based and serve as connected nodes on the IP WAN to benefit from cloud and AI technologies.

However, there are concerns that deploying an enhanced capability set in limited domains could lead to a split Internet. However, there’s growing evidence that these concerns may be unfounded. Limited-domain networks also support global universal capability sets, so the limited domains remain part of the open Internet and are globally accessible like other network domains.

Networks beyond these limited domains lack enhanced capability sets, but can still use the original global capability sets. For example, although high-speed trains run at a much higher speed on high-speed rails than regular trains, they can still run on regular rails at reduced speeds because high-speed trains also use standard wheels and rails, and the high-speed railway network is part of the entire railway network. In fact, the enhanced IP capability sets in limited domains make originally non-IP-based devices IP-based, turning them into new connected nodes on the open Internet. This objectively expands the scope of the Internet, strengthening the Internet, rather than splitting it.

Advancing IP technologies are breaking the bottleneck in consumer Internet growth and are being applied in more challenging vertical-industry scenarios to help real-economy industries, such as transportation, energy, and manufacturing, embrace the benefits of cloud and AI. This means we must keep up with the evolving requirements of vertical industries and open up new frontiers of all-IP networks through scenario-based innovation.