PlanetLab has proven to be an invaluable platform for learning about network-wide phenomena, creating new network protocols, evaluating new and existing network services, gaining experience with network systems running at a global scale, and in the end, deploying novel network services that enhance the capabilities of the Internet.
Impact on Research
PlanetLab has become an essential tool for network and distributed systems research. Researchers that make claims about protocols and services running on the Internet use PlanetLab to demonstrate how their designs hold up under realistic network conditions. We have compiled a partial bibliography of papers that have taken advantage of PlanetLab. The bibliography includes nearly 200 citations, the vast majority of which have been published at the very best networking and distributed system venues: SIGCOMM, SOSP, OSDI, NSDI, INFOCOMM, Usenix, EuroSys, IPTPS, IMC, and HotNets. It is also noteworthy that the papers have been evenly distributed over time, with papers published at the same rate in 2007-08 as in 2004-06.
It is difficult to quantify the broader impact of this research, but there is strong anecdotal evidence that research leveraging PlanetLab is having a far-reaching impact. A small sampling includes:
Impact on Teaching
PlanetLab has hosted over 4700 users in its six-year history, approximately 3700 of which have been students. Whether these students are working on their PhD research or doing course assignments, they are gaining valuable experience with network systems running in at a global scale---experience coping with transient failures, differences in connectivity cliques, variations in latency and bandwidth, abuses inflicted by real users (some of which are malicious), and so on.
More narrowly, a set of graduate and undergraduate courses have been designed to take advantage of PlanetLab. Links to over 40 of these classes are available at http://www.planet-lab.org/courseware .
Because PlanetLab is now a software distribution as well as a public deployment, there is an opportunity for explosive growth in the network resources that can be made available to researchers, and used to run the innovative network services they are creating. Effectively federating these autonomous deployments remains a significant challenge, but the deployments already under way point to an unprecedented opportunity.
One such deployment is VINI, which extends the PlanetLab code base to exploit layer-2 circuits, and has been deployed on the National Lambda Rail (NLR) and Internet2's NewNet backbone. Another is MeasurementLab, which widely deploys servers that can be probed from the edge of the Internet. Similar deployments are as follows.
Catalyzed by the GENI initiative in the US, which was itself inspired by PlanetLab, there are a host of regional efforts to deploy PlanetLab-based network substrates. At the time of this writing, the PlanetLab team at Princeton is working with the following international groups:
We are planning the deployment of a lightweight version of a PlanetLab node, called PlanetBridge, into neighborhoods, villages, schools, and homes around the world. Our partners are in Ghana (Kokrobitey Institute & EcoBand Inc. & KACE), Brazil (Universidade Federale Fluminese / RUCA2), India (National Institute of Technology Karnataka), British Columbia (University of Victoria), South Africa (Meraka Institute), Belize (Imaging the World), and Costa Rica (CruTec).
Corporations, in many cases Telcos, are deploying PlanetLab on their internal infrastructures. Examples include AT&T, Polish Telecom, BT, and Intel. There are three general motivations. One is to provide a "network sandbox'' for the company's researchers, who often have less latitude exploring new ideas on their corporate networks than academic researchers have on the Public PlanetLab. A second is to evaluate technology developed on the Public PlanetLab for commercial viability. This includes both network services running on PlanetLab and PlanetLab itself as a programmable platform for delivering future services. A third is to exploit a PlanetLab capability for an existing corporate need, such as monitoring Internet and intranet activity from multiple vantage points.
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