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Adding Intelligence to Satellite-Based Internet Links: Architecture of a Second-Generation Satellite-Based Internet Delivery System

Anup MATHUR <amathur@ats.com>
A&T Systems Inc.

Marc ABRAMS <abrams@vt.edu>
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Hua CHEN <pchen@ats.com>
A&T Systems Inc.

Tokuo OISHI <tokuo.oishi@intelsat.int>

Tommy JOHNSON <tjohnson@csgrad.cs.vt.edu>
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Ibraz ANWAR <anwar@ats.com>
A&T Systems Inc.


Two scaling problems face the Internet today. First, it will be years before terrestrial networks are able to provide adequate bandwidth uniformly around the world, given the explosive growth in Internet bandwidth demand and the amount of the world that is still unwired. Second, the traffic distribution is not uniform worldwide: Clients in all countries of the world access content that today is chiefly produced in a few regions of the world (e.g., North America). A new generation of Internet access built around geosynchronous satellites can provide immediate relief. The satellite system can improve service to bandwidth-starved regions of the globe where terrestrial networks are insufficient and supplement terrestrial networks elsewhere. This new generation of satellite system manages a set of satellite links using intelligent controls at the link endpoints. The intelligence uses feedback obtained from monitoring end-user behavior to adapt the use of resources. Mechanisms controlled include caching, dynamic construction of push channels, use of multicast, and scheduling of satellite bandwidth. This paper discusses the key issues of using intelligence to control satellite links, and then presents as a case study the architecture of a specific system: the Internet Delivery System, which uses INTELSAT's satellite fleet to create Internet connections that act as wormholes between points on the globe.


1. Introduction

Satellites have been used for years to provide communication network links.  Historically, the use of satellites in the Internet can be divided into two generations. In the first generation, satellites were simply used to provide commodity links (e.g., T1) between countries. Internet Protocol (IP) routers were attached to the link endpoints to use the links as single-hop alternatives to multiple terrestrial hops. Two characteristics marked these first-generation systems: they had limited bandwidth, and they had large latencies that were due to the propagation delay to the high orbit position of a geosynchronous satellite.

In the second generation of systems now appearing, intelligence is added at the satellite link endpoints to overcome these characteristics.  This intelligence is used as the basis for a system for providing Internet access engineered using a collection or fleet of satellites, rather than operating single satellite channels in isolation. Examples of intelligent control of a fleet include monitoring which documents are delivered over the system to make decisions adaptively on how to schedule satellite time; dynamically creating multicast groups based on monitored data to conserve satellite bandwidth; caching documents at all satellite channel endpoints; and anticipating user demands to hide latency.

This paper examines several key questions arising in the design of a satellite-based system:

The paper is organized as follows. The next section, Section 2, examines the above questions in enumerating principles for second-generation satellite delivery systems. Section 3 presents a case study of the Internet Delivery System (IDS), which is currently undergoing worldwide field trials.  Section 4 surveys other organizations (SkyCache, Internet-Skyway, iBeam,  PanamSat) that are deploying elements of second-generation satellite systems, primarily caching. Section 5 discusses the future for IDS.

2. Issues in second-generation satellite link control

We discuss in this section each of the questions raised in this paper's introduction.

Can international Internet access using a geosynchronous satellite be competitive with today's terrestrial networks?

The first question is whether it makes sense today to use geosynchronous satellite links for Internet access. Alternatives include wired terrestrial connections, low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites, and wireless wide area network technologies (such as Local Multipoint Distribution Service or 2.4-GHz radio links in the U.S.).

We see three reasons why geosynchronous satellites will be used for some years to come for international Internet connections.

The first reason is obvious: it will be years before terrestrial networks are able to provide adequate bandwidth uniformly around the world, given the explosive growth in Internet bandwidth demand and the amount of the world that is still unwired. Geosynchronous satellites can provide immediate relief. They can improve service to bandwidth-starved regions of the globe where terrestrial networks are insufficient and can supplement terrestrial networks elsewhere.

Second, geosynchronous satellites allow direct single-hop access to the Internet backbone, bypassing congestion points and providing faster access time and higher net throughputs. In theory, a bit can be sent the distance of an international connection over fiber in a time on the order of tens of microseconds. In practice today, however, international connections via terrestrial links are an order of magnitude larger. For example, in experiments we performed in December 1998, the mean round trip time between the U.S. and Brazil (vt.edu to embr.net.br) over terrestrial links were 562.9 msec (via teleglobe.net) and 220.7 (via gzip.net) [Habib]. In contrast, the mean latency between the two routers at the two endpoints of a satellite link between Bangledesh and Singapore measured in February 1999 was 348.5 msec. Therefore, a geosynchronous satellite has a sufficiently large footprint over the earth that it can be used to create wormholes in the Internet: constant-latency transit paths between distant points on the globe [Chen]. The mean latency of an international connection via satellite is competitive with today's terrestrial-based connections, but the variance in latency can be reduced.

As quality-of-service (QoS) guarantees are introduced by carriers, the mean and variance in latency should go down for international connections, reducing the appeal of geosychronous satellites. However, although QoS may soon be widely available within certain countries, it may be some time until it is available at low cost between most countries of the world.

A third reason for using geosynchronous satellites is that the Internet's traffic distribution is not uniform worldwide: clients in all countries of the world access content (e.g., Web pages, streaming media) that today is chiefly produced in a few regions of the world (e.g., North America).  This implies that a worldwide multicast architecture that caches content on both edges of the satellite network (i.e., near the content providers as well as near the clients) could provide improved response time to clients worldwide. We use this traffic pattern in the system described in the case study (Section 3).

One final point of interest is to ask whether LEO satellites that are being deployed today will displace the need for geosynchronous satellites.  The low orbital position makes the LEO footprint relatively small.  Therefore, international connections through LEOs will require multiple hops in space, much as today's satellite-based wireless phone systems operate.  The propagation delay will eliminate any advantage that LEOs have over geosynchronous satellites. On the other hand, LEOs have an advantage:  they are not subject to the constraint in orbital positions facing geosynchronous satellite operators. So the total available LEO bandwidth could one day surpass that of geosynchronous satellites.

What elements constitute an "intelligent control" for a satellite-based Internet link?

The basic architecture behind intelligent control for a satellite fleet is to augment the routers at each end of a satellite link with a bank of network-attached servers that implement algorithms appropriate for the types of traffic carried over the links. We use certain terminology in our discussion. First, given the argument above for asymmetric traffic, our discussion is framed in terms of connecting content providers (in a few countries) to end users (in all countries) In some cases (e.g., two-way audio), however, the traffic may be symmetrical.  Second, we refer to the content-provider endpoint of a satellite link as a warehouse, and the end-user endpoint as a kiosk.  The architecture of warehouses and kiosks must be scalable: The number of servers, storage capacity, and throughput of warehouses and kiosks must scale as the number and bandwidth of satellite links, content providers, and end users grows.

Figure 1 illustrates the generic architecture.  Content providers are connected via the terrestrial Internet to a router inside a warehouse. The router also connects to a local area network that interconnects various servers. The router also connects to the earth station for the satellite. Within the footprint of the satellite are many groundstations, each connected to a router within a kiosk. The kiosk is similar to the warehouse in that it connects to a local area network that interconnects servers, and optionally, to a terrestrial Internet connection. The kiosk also acts as the head end for Internet service providers (ISPs) that provide network connections to end users.  More details are given in the case study in Section 3.

Figure 1: Intelligent control resides in warehouses and kiosks

Intelligent controls reside in the warehouse and kiosk and are required to share limited satellite bandwidth among many users and to hide the quarter-second latency of a geosynchronous satellite. The controls are a distributed algorithm, in which part runs on warehouses and part runs on kiosks. All warehouses and kiosks must cooperate and must coordinate the use of satellite resources. Multicast groups are defined to allow communication between cooperating entities (e.g., between a warehouse and multiple kiosks).

To identify which controls make sense, it is useful to look at the characteristics of Internet traffic. Figure 2 is a taxonomy of traffic with six categories. Three of them represent Web pages: pages that are popular for months or longer (e.g., a news service such as cnn.com); pages that are popular for a short time (e.g., hours, days, or weeks, such as those resulting from Olympic games); and pages that are accessed only a few times. One of the facts known about this traffic is that most of the requests and most of the bytes transferred in client workloads come from a small number of servers. For example, in a study of proxy or client uniform resource locator (URL) reference traces from Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), America Online, Boston University, Virginia Tech, a gateway to South Korea, and one high school, 80% to 95% of the total accesses went to 25% of the servers [Abdulla].

The next category of traffic in Figure 2 is push channels. This consists of a collection of media that a content provider assembles and distributes, for example using the proposed World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Information and Content Exchange (ICE) protocol [ICE]. The remaining two categories are real-time traffic, such as streaming audio or video from a teleconference, and what we call timely but not real time.  This last category includes information that is updated periodically and has a certain lifetime, such as financial quotes and Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP).

Figure 2: Categorization of Internet traffic

The point of categorizing traffic is that different intelligent controls are needed for different categories of traffic. The following are mechanisms used in the case study of Section 3:

What are the design issues that are critical to using satellite channels efficiently?

The overall system must achieve a balance between the throughput of the terrestrial Internet connection going into the warehouse, the throughput of the warehouse itself, the throughput of the satellite link, the throughput of each kiosk, and the throughput of the connection between a kiosk and its end users. In addition, a balance among the number of end users, the number of kiosks, and the number of warehouses is required.

Consider some examples. As the number of end users grows, so will the size of the set of popular Web pages that must be delivered, and the bandwidth required for push, real time, and timely traffic. Let's look at Web traffic in detail. Analysis of end-user traffic to proxy servers at America Online done at Virginia Tech shows that an average user requests one URL about every 50 seconds, which indicates a request rate of 0.02 URLs per second.  (This does not mean that a person clicks on a link or types a new URL every 50 seconds; instead, each URL requested typically embeds other URLs, such as images. The average rate of the individual URLs requested either by a person or indirectly as an embedded object is one every 50 seconds.) Thus, a kiosk supporting 1,000 concurrent users must handle a request rate of 200 per second. The median file size from the set of traces cited above (DEC, America Online, etc.) is 2 kilobytes [Abdulla]. Thus, the kiosk Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)-level throughput to end users must be 400 kilobytes per second.  At the other end, the warehouse has a connection to the Internet.  The bandwidth of this connection must exceed that of the satellite connection, because the warehouse generates cache consistency traffic. The servers within the warehouse and kiosk have limited throughput, for example, the throughput at which the cache engines can serve Web pages. To do multicast transmission, a collection of content (Web pages, pushed documents) must be bundled up at the application layer at the warehouse into a unit for transmission to a multicast group, then broken down into individual objects at the kiosk. This assembly and disassembly process also limits throughput.

A second issue is how to handle Web page misses as kiosks. If the kiosk has no terrestrial Internet connection, then these situations obviously must be satisfied over the satellite channel. This reduces the number of kiosks that a satellite link can handle. On the other hand, if the kiosk does have a terrestrial connection, an adaptive decision might be to choose the satellite over the terrestrial link if there is unused satellite capacity and if the performance of the territorial link is erratic.

A third issue is how to handle Domain Name System (DNS) lookups. A DNS server is necessary at kiosks to avoid the delay of sending lookups over a satellite.  However, how should misses or lookups of invalidated entries in the kiosk's DNS server be handled? One option is for the DNS traffic to go over a terrestrial link at the kiosk, if one is available. An alternative is for the warehouse to multicast DNS entries to the kiosks, based on host names encountered in the logs transmitted from the kiosks to the warehouse.

A fourth issue is fault tolerance. If a kiosk goes down and reboots, or a new kiosk is brought up, there must be a mechanism for that kiosk to obtain information missed during the failure.

3. Case study: Internet delivery system

IDS uses

The objective of the IDS is to provide fast and economical Internet connectivity worldwide. IDS also facilitates Internet access to parts of the globe that have poor terrestrial connectivity. IDS achieves this goal by two means:

  1. creating satellite-based wormholes [Chen], from content providers to geographically distant service providers, thus providing a fast path from one edge of the network to the other
  2. caching content such as HTTP, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), NNTP, and streaming media at the content-provider end as well as the service-provider end, thus conserving bandwidth

The idea for the IDS was conceived at INTELSAT, an international organization that owns a fleet of geostationary satellites and sells space segment bandwidth to its international signatories. Work on the prototype started in February 1998. In February 1999, the prototype system stands poised for international trials involving ten signatories of INTELSAT. A commercial version of IDS will be released in May 1999.

The building blocks of IDS are warehouses and  kiosks. A warehouse is a large repository (terabytes of storage) of Web content. The warehouse is connected to the content-provider edge of the Internet by a high-bandwidth link. Given the global distribution of Web content today, an excellent choice for a warehouse could be a large data-center or large-scale bandwidth reseller situated in the U.S. The warehouse will use its high-bandwidth link to the content providers to crawl and gather Web content of interest in its Web cache. The warehouse uses an adaptive refreshing technique to assure the freshness of the content stored in its Web cache. The Web content stored in the warehouse cache is continuously scheduled for transmission via a satellite and multicast to a group of kiosks that subscribe to the warehouse.

The centerpiece of the kiosk architecture is also a Web cache. Kiosks represent the service-provider edge of the Internet and can therefore reside at national service providers or ISPs. The storage size of a kiosk cache can therefore vary from a low number of gigabytes to terabytes. Web content multicast by the warehouse is received, is filtered for subscription, and is subsequently pushed in the kiosk cache. The kiosk Web cache also operates in the traditional pull mode. All user requests for Web content to the service provider are transparently intercepted and redirected to the kiosk Web cache. The cache serves the user request directly if it has the requested content; otherwise, it uses its link to the Internet to retrieve the content from the origin Web site. The cache stores a copy of the requested content while passing it back to the user who requested it.

The layout for an IDS prototype warehouse and kiosk is shown in Figure 1 . The prototype warehouse consists of two server class Pentium II based machines, namely an application server and a  cache server. The cache server houses a Web cache and other related modules.  The Web cache at the warehouse has 100 gigabytes of storage. The application server is host to a transmitter application, a relational database, and a Java-based management application. These servers reside on a dedicated subnet of the warehouse network. This subnet is connected to a multicast-enabled router that routes all multicast traffic to a serial interface for uplinking to the INTELSAT IDR system [Intelsat]. The INTELSAT IDR system provides IP connectivity, over a 2-Mbps satellite channel, between the warehouse and kiosks.

The prototype kiosk also contains a Pentium II-based application server and a Pentium II-based cache server. The kiosk cache server houses a Web cache with 50 gigabytes of storage. The application server is host to a receiver application, a relational database, and a Java-based configuration and management application. These servers reside on a dedicated subnet of the kiosk network. This subnet is connected to a multicast-enabled router. An important part of the prototype kiosk is a layer-4 server switch [Williams], which is used to transparently redirect all HTTP (Transmission Control Protocol/port 80) user traffic to the kiosk cache server.

IDS treats Web content as composed of six traffic categories as categorized in Figure 2. These categories are summarized in Table 1 below. Type A traffic consists of HTTP Web content that is identified by a human operator as content that should remain popular over a long time (e.g., months). This may include popular news Web sites such as the Cable News Network (CNN) Web site. Type B traffic refers to HTTP Web content directly pushed into the warehouse by subscribing content providers. Type E traffic refers to unicast HTTP user request-reply traffic that passes though the kiosk and is not cached at the kiosk. The reply for a type E request is cached at the kiosk on its return path from the origin server. As requests for a particular URL accumulate at multiple kiosks, such a hot-spot URL is converted from type E to type C. Type D traffic refers to real-time streaming traffic. Type F traffic refers to semi-real-time reliable traffic such as financial quotes and NNTP. Traffic of types A, B, C, D, or F is multicast to all kiosks and pushed to subscribing kiosks.

Table 1: IDS traffic categories
Traffic Definition IDS traffic category
Web sites popular over long time A
Publisher pushed B
Automatically identified as hot Web sites C
Kiosk unicast requests E
Real-time streaming D
Semi-real time F

The IDS prototype implements traffic types A, C, and E. Figure 3 below shows the flow of traffic types A, C, and E through the IDS system. Type A traffic is defined by the warehouse operator by entering popular URLs through the warehouse management interface. The warehouse operator also classifies URLs into channels as part of creating type A content. Once created, content belonging to type A is registered in the relational database and subsequently crawled from the Web and stored in the warehouse Web cache. The warehouse refreshes content of type A from the origin servers based on an adaptive refresh algorithm. Content of type A is also continuously multicast by the transmitter application to the kiosks. At the kiosk, the receiver application filters the incoming multicast traffic, thus accepting only the subset of traffic that belongs to channels subscribed at the kiosk. Filtered content is then pushed into the Web cache at the kiosk.

Traffic of type E originates as an HTTP request from kiosk end users. The request is redirected to the layer-4 switch at the kiosk, the kiosk cache. If the requested content is not found in the kiosk cache, then that request is routed to the origin server. The reply from the origin server is cached at the kiosk Web cache on its way back to the end user who made the request. In Figure 2, the path for unicast type E traffic is shown as going through the satellite back channel. It must be noted, however, that type E traffic bypasses all warehouse components and is routed to the Internet.

On a periodic basis, the warehouse polls all subscribing kiosks for hit statistics regarding the type E content in their respective Web caches. Using this information and appropriate business rules specified by the management application at the warehouse, the warehouse converts a subset of type E content to type C. Once type C content has been created, the data flow for this traffic type follows the same path as described above for traffic type A.

Figure 3: IDS data flow

IDS architecture

Components at the warehouse

The IDS warehouse is composed of four major components, namely the cache subsystem, transmission subsystem, management subsystem, and  database subsystem. Figure 4 shows the major components of the warehouse along with their interconnections.

The cache subsystem consists of a cluster of standard Web caches that communicate among each other using standard protocols such as Internet Cache Protocol (ICP). For the IDS prototype, we have a single Squid cache. The cache subsystem also consists of refresh and crawl modules that communicate with the Web cache(s) using HTTP and are responsible for proactively refreshing and crawling newly created type A or C content from origin Web servers, respectively. The log module in the cache subsystem parses standard logs from the Web cache and communicates hit-metering data to the database subsystem.

The transmission subsystem contains scheduling and gathering modules. These modules perform the following functions:

The transmitter module, also a part of the transmission subsystem, receives bundles and transmits them using the Multicast File Transfer Protocol from Starburst Communications [Starburst].

The management subsystem is a Web-based graphical front end that communicates with the database subsystem and provides the warehouse operator with a tool to perform the following types of activities:

The database subsystem consists of the relational database, the Y module, and the mapper. The relational database contains persistent information about the content stored in the warehouse Web cache as well as URL hit statistics and channel and subscription information. The Y module performs three major tasks:

  1. It periodically requests per-URL hit statistics for type E content stored in the Web caches of all kiosks.
  2. Based on thresholds set at the warehouse, it converts a subset of E content to C.
  3. It automatically channelizes the newly converted C content into the channels available at the warehouse.

Figure 4: IDS warehouse

Components at the kiosk

Like the warehouse, the IDS kiosk is also composed of four major components: (1) the cache subsystem, (2) the transmission subsystem, (3) the management subsystem, and (4) the database subsystem. Figure 5 shows the major components of the kiosk.

The cache subsystem at the kiosk consists of a cluster of standard Web caches, a layer-4 switch, and a log module. The cache cluster at the kiosk is identical to the one at the warehouse in all respects except one: the Web cache(s) at the kiosk are equipped to accept an HTTP push. The HTTP push method, which is described in detail in [Chen], enables the kiosk to directly push multicast Web content received from the warehouse into the kiosk cache(s). For the IDS prototype, we have a single Squid cache at the kiosk. The kiosk Web cache(s) are connected to the rest of kiosk network through a layer-4 switch. The layer-4 switch at the kiosk is configured to redirect all user HTTP-based traffic transparently to the Web cache(s). The log module accepts log data from the Web cache and inserts hit-metering data into the database subsystem.

The transmission subsystem at the kiosk contains a receiver module and several push clients. The receiver module performs the following functions:

The push clients push all objects forwarded to them by the receiver into the Web cache(s) using the HTTP push method.

The management subsystem at the kiosk is a Web-based graphical front end that communicates with the database subsystem and provides the kiosk operator with a tool to perform the following types of activities:

The database subsystem consists of the relational database and the Y module. The relational database contains persistent information about the content stored in the kiosk Web cache as well as URL hit statistics and channel and subscription information. The Y module at the kiosk transmits per-URL hit statistics for E type content stored in its Web cache when requested to do so by the warehouse.

Figure 5: IDS kiosk

Design issues and goals

In this section, we discuss some of the salient design goals that make IDS a unique system that fits its requirements.

Content refresh at the warehouse

Cache consistency techniques for Web caches is a well-debated topic. In [Gwertzman], the authors describe techniques for maintaining fresh content in Web caches, namely,

In the IDS design, the warehouse maintains the freshness of objects residing within IDS (i.e., in the warehouse and kiosk Web caches). The IDS warehouse design includes an adaptive refresh client-polling technique that uses object TTLs as initial estimates for object refresh times. The client-polling technique is encapsulated in the following relationship:

Ci+1 = Ci + f.(Ci - M)

where Ci denotes the time when the ith query to check the freshness of an object was sent to the origin Web server. Ci+1 denotes the estimated query time for the (i + 1)th query. M denotes the time when the object was last modified at the server. Finally, f denotes a constant factor. A desirable value of f can be determined by minimizing the number of queries i, such that a subsequent modification to the object after time M is discovered as quickly as possible. A value of 0.1 for f is suggested in the HTTP 1.1 request for comments.

By having the warehouse refresh all the kiosks, IDS saves the client-polling bandwidth to origin servers. In addition, the refresh mechanism in IDS is sensitive to objects that change too frequently. Such frequently changing documents are tagged as uncacheable by the system.

Content prefetch

The IDS warehouse is designed to prefetch cacheable objects embedded in a cached Web page. The crawler module in IDS proactively parses cached objects for embedded cacheable objects, evaluates the embedded objects against evaluation parameters, and fetches them from their origin servers to be cached. The evaluation parameters, set through the management application, use the heuristic that objects associated with a popular object are likely to be popular also. Thus, caching of prefetched objects leads to better hit rates for the kiosk caches.

Content rerun -- kiosk fault tolerance

Along with new and updated Web content, the IDS warehouse constantly multicasts all information cached in its Web cache to the kiosks. This design feature provides an automatic recovery for kiosks that were offline for a certain period of time. It automatically brings new kiosks up-to-date as well.

Push channels

The IDS warehouse is designed to classify all Web content into push channels based on keywords associated with cached objects. Two methods of channelization are present. Manual channelization is offered through the management application at the warehouse. Any object in the warehouse can be manually associated with a channel. Web content brought in by the warehouse crawler module is also automatically channelized based on a keywords discovery algorithm in the crawler.
Kiosks subscribe to channels offered by the warehouse. Based on kiosk subscriptions, which are communicated periodically from all kiosks to the warehouse, the warehouse is able to append a subscription bitmap to all objects being multicast out to the kiosks. Kiosks inspect the subscription bitmap and filter out all unwanted traffic.

Portable module interfaces

A specific goal in the design of IDS is to design modules with portable interfaces. This allows flexibility in choosing implementation platforms. All IDS modules within the warehouse and kiosks use Transmission Control Protocol/IP for interprocess communication. Thus, all warehouse (or kiosk) functionality may reside on a single machine or may be distributed among several machines.

In addition, the relational database communicates with other modules through a single set of application programming interfaces.

Transparent redirection of HTTP traffic at kiosk

A hard requirement of the IDS kiosk design is that all HTTP traffic from users to the kiosk must be transparently redirected to the kiosk cache. Thus, the deployment of a kiosk at a national service provider or an ISP will be invisible to the customers of the kiosk. Although transparent redirection has been implemented in software by Netcache and other cache vendors, most service providers choose to deploy a hardware-based solution such as Web Cache Control Protocol running on CISCO cache engines and routers or to use a content-aware layer-4 switch. The IDS design includes a layer-4 switch to implement transparent redirection of HTTP traffic to the kiosk cache.

Content push into Web cache

The Web caches used in IDS are designed to operate in pull as well as push mode. While pull is the default mode of behavior, IDS Web caches are modified to accept object push. The kiosk Web cache accepts objects pushed from the warehouse. The warehouse Web cache can accept objects pushed from content providers. The design of the push protocol for Web caches is detailed in [Chen].

Minimal modifications to Web cache architecture

A key goal in the IDS design was to keep modification to the Web cache to a minimum, which would allow the Web cache to be used as a pluggable module. The IDS prototype uses the Squid Web cache from the National Laboratory for Applied Network Research; however, the design allows for the substitution of Squid by any commercial Web cache that implements the push protocol.

Persistent storage of Web cache metadata

Web cache metadata including hit-metering statistics for all cached objects is stored in a relational database. This persistent storage provides IDS with the ability to query relevant metadata statistics to enforce business rules.

4. Parallel efforts

Along with the development of IDS, a number of proof-of-concept projects as well as commercial ventures based on similar concepts have been announced. Best known among them are SkyCache, iBeam, Internet Skyway, and PanamSat/SPOTcast.

SkyCache [SkyCache], offers a satellite-based internet cache updating service to ISPs. The SkyCache system consists of a MasterCache located at a central location. The MasterCache pulls popular Web content from the Internet through a high-bandwidth link. The MasterCache transmits HTTP/NNTP content via satellite, using an unreliable broadcast protocol, to a CacheAdapter located at the ISP. The ISP is required have an ICP-compliant Web cache. The ISP Web cache is connected to the SkyCache CacheAdapter. Whenever the ISP Web cache is unable to serve user-requested content, it uses ICP to pull content from the CacheAdapter. The CacheAdapter transmits hit/miss statistics back to the MasterCache via a terrestrial return channel.

Another project, called Internet Skyway, is working toward a solution to provide two-tier caching and replication for HTTP/NNTP/FTP-based Web content for ISPs in Europe. A centrally placed ISWRobot crawls "interesting and most frequently used" content from the Internet. Crawled content is then broadcast via a 2-Mbps satellite link using IP over Digital Video Broadcasting. ISWCaches, located at ISP points of presence receive and cache the broadcast content. ISP end users are served the content from the ISWCache.

iBeam Broadcasting [iBeam] is in the process of building a network of "distributed servers" called MaxCaster servers that will reside at ISP points of presence and will serve streaming media and HTTP content to ISP end users. The iBeam model is driven by content providers and, by design, will carry HTTP and streaming traffic for subscribing content providers only. Content providers use a site definition file to identify the location and refresh for the content that is to be distributed by the iBeam network. Such content is pulled into an iBeam Network Operations Center (NOC). The NOC then replicates content to the remote MaxCaster servers using a satellite broadcast. Copies of content residing in the distributed MaxCaster servers are refreshed by the NOC based on instructions in the site definition file. At the ISP end, users are transparently redirected to the MaxCaster servers by using a layer-4 switch.

Similar to the goals of iBeam, the primary focus of the PanamSat effort is distribution of multimedia content via satellite. To this end, PanamSat has developed a solution called SPOTcast that enables the distribution of multimedia content using IP multicast over satellite. In its current incarnation, SPOTcast uses the CyberStream product by New Media Communications to distribute multimedia content to Online System Services cable head-end network called i2u community.

5. Roadmap for the future

Although the concept of "shortcuts" from the content providers to service providers is not new [Gwert96], this idea has been harnessed only recently. This recent development has resulted from the availability of enabling technologies such as IP multicast/broadcast over satellite, Web caches that accept push, and transparent redirection of layer-4 traffic. While the planet becomes wired through terrestrial and undersea high-bandwidth fiber links, geostationary satellites offer an ideal platform for offering an intelligent and high-performance infrastructure for Internet delivery. The first generation of such intelligent products will be available this year. These products and services will also serve as the proving grounds for several next-generation internet services, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), which offer security as well as guaranteed quality of service from the content providers to the end users.

At the writing of this document the IDS prototype has been tested at INTELSAT labs and is poised for deployment in international trials. The trials will comprise ten signatories of INTELSAT, including Teleglobe International (Canada), Telia (Sweden), British Telecom (UK), French Telecom (France), and Embratel (Brazil). The international trials will have a single warehouse located near Montreal, Canada, and operated by Teleglobe, and 10 kiosks located at participating signatory sites in North America, Europe, and Africa. The trials will last for three months.

Commercial releases of IDS will add functionality to provide the following:

The first commercial version of IDS is scheduled for release in May 1999. Two subsequent commercial releases are planned in 1999.


Marc Abrams was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant NCR-9627922. The authors thank Ahsan Habib for providing certain measurements used in the paper. The authors also acknowledge the other members of the IDS development team, including Thuc Nguyen, Ken Salins, Ravi Vellaleth, Balaguru Nalathambi, and Pat Percich from A&T Systems and John Stevenson and Lacina Kone from INTELSAT, whose incessant effort has made IDS possible.


[Abdulla] Ghaleb Abdulla, Edward A. Fox, Marc Abrams, "Shared User Behavior on the World Wide Web," WebNet97, Toronto, October 1997, http://www.cs.vt.edu/~nrg/docs/97webnet/.

[Chen] Chen et. al, "Wormhole Caching with HTTP Push Method for a Satellite-Based Global Multicast Replication System," submitted to the International Cache Conference, San Diego, June 1999.

[Danzig] Peter Danzig, "NetCache Architecture and Deployment," February 2, 1997.

[Gwertzman] James Gwertzman and Margo Seltzer, "World-Wide Web Cache Consistency," http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/vino/usenix.196/.

[Gwertz95] James Gwertzman and Margo Seltzer, "The Case for Geographical Push-Caching," Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Workshop on Hot Operating Systems, Oreas Island, WA, May 1995, 51-55.

[Habib] Md. Ahsan Habib and Marc Abrams, Analysis of Bottlenecks in International Internet Links, Dept. of Computer Science, Virginia Tech, TR-98-24, Dec. 1998.

[iBeam] "Distributed Serving Solutions for Content Providers: An iBeam White Paper," iBeam Broadcasting Corporation, 1998 http://www.ibeam.com.

[Intelsat] "SSOG308 QPSK/FDMA: IDR CARRIERS LINE-UP," INTELSAT 1998 http://www.intelsat.int/pub/ssog/pdf/ssog308e.pdf

[Manley] Stephen Manley and Margo Seltzer, "Web Facts and Fantasy," http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~vino/sits.97.html/

[SkyCache] "Renovating the Internet:SkyCache White Paper," Skycache 1998 http://www.skycache.com/whitepaper.html.

[Starburst] "StarBurst MFTP--An Efficient, Scalable Method for Distributing Information Using IP Multicast," Starburst Software

[ICE] Neil Webber, Conleth O'Connell, Bruce Hunt, Rick Levine, Laird Popkin, Gord Larose, The Information and Content Exchange (ICE) Protocol, W3C Note 26 October 1998, http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-ice.

[Williams] Bert Williams, "Transparent Web Caching Solutions," Alteon Networks White Paper, 1998.

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