Tag Archives: networks

It’s alive! – BT looking to artificial life

rhizomeQ: What do the Nuer, social insects, and BT have in common?

A: The first two are organised along acephalous (‘headless’) principles, while researchers working for the third have begun to hail the advantages of following suit.

At this week’s Artificial Life XI conference in Winchester, BT researchers explained how ‘[i]nsights from artificial life could soon be helping run [the firm’s] networks’

“If we look at the biological world, there is a huge amount of change, complexity, and adaptation,” said former biologist Paul Marrow who works in BT’s Broadband Applications Research Centre.

“These artificial life ideas are a very useful source of inspiration as the products and services we provide become increasingly complex and demanding in terms of resources.

In stark contrast to the heirarchical structures of traditional network architecture,

BT hopes to tap the secrets of another of life’s defining features called self-organisation

“With self-organisation, you have very simple rules governing individual units that together perform a bigger task – a typical example is ant colonies,” said Fabrice Saffre, principal researcher at BT’s Pervasive ICT Research Centre.

The simplicity of the rules makes for less computation, and therefore is easier on the network. “It’s a very economical solution – especially for problems that are very dynamic. Anything you can do with self-organisation is basically a ‘free lunch’,” said Dr Saffre.

Mmm … rhizomatic! 🙂

[story via the BBC / image by kevindooley, via flickr / for more on the Nuer, see the work of anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard]

Web wars – white hats versus black in botnet battles

CPU chip pinsThey may be off the news radar at the moment, but botnets are still a serious bugbear for computer security professionals – it’s hard work trying to defeat something that fights back, after all. [image by Rodrigo Senna]

So here’s a new idea from the University of Washington – why not fight fire with fire, and build a white hat botnet to defend against the DDoS attacks af the black hat botnets?

“Their system, called Phalanx, uses its own large network of computers to shield the protected server. Instead of the server being accessed directly, all information must pass through the swarm of “mailbox” computers.

The many mailboxes do not simply relay information to the server like a funnel – they only pass on information when the server requests it. That allows the server to work at its own pace, without being swamped.”

Sounds like a good plan. It’s beyond my knowledge levels, but the guys at Techdirt seem to think it’s a creative approach.

As a recent convert to Linux, this is the part where I smugly remind everyone that if certain commercially ubiquitous operating systems weren’t so riddled with security flaws, botnets wouldn’t be a problem anyway