Building on the study we described in section 3, we have emphasized the need for efficient access to information to influence the design of network infrastructure. In that study we conducted simulations to understand how intermediate caching of information at the supercomputer centers or NAPs might speed information delivery. For very heavily accessed servers, we evaluated the relative benefit of establishing mirror sites, which could provide easier access but at the cost of extra (and distributed) maintenance of equipment and software.
However, arbitrarily scattered mirror sites will not be sufficient. The Internet's sustained explosive growth calls for an architected solution to the problem of scalable wide area information dissemination. While increasing network bandwidths help, the rapidly growing populace will continue to outstrip network and server capacity as they attempt to access widely popular pools of data throughout the network. The need for more efficient bandwidth and server utilization transcends any single protocol such as ftp, http, or whatever protocol next becomes popular.
We have proposed to develop and prototype wide area information provisioning mechanisms that support both caching and replication, using the supercomputer centers as `root' caches. A nationally sanctioned and sponsored hierarchical caching and replicating architecture would be ideally aligned with NSF's mission, serving the community by offering a basic support structure and setting an example that would encourage other service providers to maintain such operations.
We have proposed, in collaboration with Digital Equipment Corporation as a partner on this project, to develop and deploy a scalable caching and replication system across strategic network locations within the United States. Digital Equipment Corporation has committed to significant cost sharing and collaboration, as an integral part of this proposal. Our goal is to facilitate the evolution of U.S. information provisioning with an efficient national architecture for handling highly popular information. Our proposed effort is unique in tying together research and infrastructure. The research and deployment experience of the principal investigators and their proximity to NSF backbone sites will leverage existing NSF-sponsored activities, at the supercomputer centers as well as activities related to resource discovery at the University of Colorado in Boulder.