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Services for Mobile Users

Mobility was the requirement of the 90s, first in communications and then in computing.

growing demand by users many interested players:

equipment manufacturers, infrastructure and service providers

Current technology (devices, access) makes mobile computing feasible, but present support for it is limited.

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Introduction to Mobile Computing

Various definitions of mobile computing: not the same as wireless computing nomadic (or location-independent) computing Our interest is in supporting users who work from multiple locations, and whose means of connection to their home system may take different forms at different times. Emphasis to date has been on functionality, with little attention to performance.

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What Mobile Users Want

Seamless mobility

from any location, at any time convenience of use (no extra setup, plug and play) same computing environment, same services, consistent interfaces, regardless of location

Mobile users may be willing to sacrifice some performance for mobility, but only some.

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The Mobile Computing Stack

Mobile User
Application System Services Network Services Transport Medium
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Technical Challenges


communications issues: protocols (old and new), technologies (old and new) accommodating host relocations network services to mobile users (e.g., mobile multicast)

Operating System Challenges

OS support for mobility oriented devices (e.g. intermittently powered hard drives, limited resources) OS services for mobile clients (e.g., to ensure data availability, data integrity)

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Technical Challenges




design: size and weight, usability energy conservation security, authentication, authorization application development . . .

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Recent Research Projects

Accommodating mobile host relocations

with Carey Williamson, Vineet Chikarmane, Wayne Mackrell with Carey Williamson , Tim Harrison, Wayne Mackrell with Venkat Josyula with Kevin Froese

Multicast support for mobile hosts

TCP over wireless links

File system support for mobile users

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Accommodating Mobile Host Relocations

The problem:
IP routing is based on the network component of a hosts IP address, which is bound inextricably with its location. Moving to a new location means acquiring a new IP address and then informing all correspondents. Roaming must be handled on an ad hoc case-by-case basis (by individual users, system administrators, or both).

Mobile IP aims to provide for seamless relocation by providing services to mobile users as if they were at their home network.

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Mobile IP: An Emerging Standard

Features of Mobile IP:

Separates location from address. No new IP addresses or address formats required. Only mobile aware routers and mobile units need new software. Other routers and hosts use current IP.

Impact of Mobile IP on users:

Can take any computer to any location; routing of communications from correspondents is done automatically. Services provided as if at home network.

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Mobile IP: How It Works unit registers with the foreign network upon arrival. Home Agent and Foreign Agent cooperate to deliver IP datagrams to the mobile unit.


unit deregisters (explicitly or implicitly) upon leaving foreign network.


caches at both agents IP-in-IP encapsulation

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Datagram forwarding

HA tells local nodes and routers to send MNs datagrams to it HA intercepts datagrams intended for MN, then encapsulates and forwards them to MNs care-of address IP header
To: care-of address IP header To: mobile node datagram payload

FA receives encapsulated datagrams, then decapsulates them and delivers them to MN

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Mobile IP: Routing

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Integrating Wireless Access

What are the implications of integrating wireless connections into the internetworking fabric? Our focus was TCP, with emphasis on short range connections:

of functionality and performance by experiment and simulation.

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Wireless Computing

Existing wireless technologies (such as infrared, radio or cellular) can be employed for signal propagation Can provide for tetherless computing Wireless links are characterized by

higher error rates, more lost packets, longer delays

For wireless links to integrate seamlessly into the internet, TCP must work well over wireless connections since TCP/IP is the basis for many current network applications

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TCP in a Wireless Environment

Problems with TCP in a wireless environment:

TCP congestion management: uses loss as congestion indicator TCP timers: use delays for timeouts and retransmissions

Proposed solution:

sender manages end-to-end packet transmission a (transparent) proxy looks after loss on the wireless link
caches packets from sender for transmission over wireless link performs retransmissions of dropped packets ACKS from receiver flow through to sender

sender retransmissions reduced TCP semantics preserved

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Sample Measurement Results

Retransmission Time-out Behaviour

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The Proxy Model



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Sample Simulation Results

Impact of proxy on end-to-end throughput

Proxy ON

Proxy OFF

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Summary of Findings

Design decisions within TCP present problems when applications run over wireless (lossy) links. These problems have a profound impact on end-to-end performance of the application. While proxy solutions cannot affect the loss, they can control TCPs response to it and thus improve end-to-end performance.

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File System Support for Mobile Clients

Location-independent computing characterised by

disconnection, movement to a new working location, reconnection type and quality of connection (to home file server) varies

Mobile users want access to remotely stored files, regardless of current type of connection.

this research is focused on maintaining acceptable file access performance across different forms of connection.

The ultimate distributed file system File caching at the client is fundamental to any solution.

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File Caching for Mobile Computing

Goal is to provide effective file system service to mobile clients. Optimistic caching of file replicas at the client is a key to availability. Project considered impact on performance of

configuration issues, at the client and on the network cache management strategies demand characteristics

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File System Operation

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Strongly Connected Operation


high-bandwidth connection is available, over which read and write operations are serviced file caching can improve performance (by reducing latency) the conventional distributed file system

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Disconnected Operation (CODA file system)

no connection to home file server users optimistically hoard replicas of desired files prior to disconnection all file operations processed in the cache read

misses are fatal updates to file system are logged at the client upon reconnection, replay of logged events reintegrates changes with home file system
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Weakly Connected Operation


low-bandwidth connection is available read misses are no longer fatal asynchronous write backs provide for reintegration of logged changes with home file system, but must share the bandwidth available with reads reads should have priority
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Project Objectives

investigate performance issues relating to mobility-aware file caching using trace-driven simulations.
configuration policy


cache unit, cache size, bandwidth available


what to write, when to write, read/write scheduling



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Sample Results


Resource tradeoff
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Effect of write-back policy (10 MB cache)


Summary of Findings

It is possible to provide quite acceptable remote file service to weakly connected mobile clients, even when very little bandwidth is available.

Reads can be serviced in a timely manner. Even very simple write-back policies can provide timely reintegration. Requires only reasonably sized caches at the mobile client.

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The Future: Wearable Computers

A whole new meaning to the term smarty pants

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Concluding Remarks

Mobile functionality is available now, but performance remains an issue. What the future holds:

Better devices for mobile users. Seamless and transparent mobility. Better mobility infrastructure.
Mobile IP everywhere: foreign agent capabilities at conference sites, hotels, airports, ... widespread support for wireless access: base stations on many networks

But, theres still much work to be done to get us there.


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