Microsoft Research and Mesh Networking

I have been following the work that Microsoft is doing in their Windows Peer To Peer Networking
This is actually some very impressive technology that allows for a
distributed set of users to create peer-to-peer groups for exchanging
data and information.  I’m working on some applications (actually
plug-ins for GoBinder) that are going to exploit this
technology.  Microsoft has put together a Peer To Peer SDK allowing you to perform name-to-IP name resolution (PNRP
– a serverless DNS technology), along with graphing and grouping APIs
for the transfer of data between the peers.  It’s all very
impressive stuff … and is in all Windows XP SP2 machines … and will
be in all Vista machines.  The bottom line … this is going to
drastically alter how ad-hoc groups of users on Windows machines will
be able to locate each other, communicate, and collaborate.

Today, I found yet another amazing technology out of Microsoft Research
For years I have been tracking the “wireless mesh networking”
space.  This is where each node in a wireless network is a
repeater/relay for any other node that is within range.  With true
mesh technologies I can communicate with other users, even if they are
beyond the reach of my wireless signal, if there are one or more nodes
between us that are part of the “mesh” network.  Mesh networks are
the next big thing … even the cellular carriers are talking about
adding emergency mesh capabilities into cell phones.

What I found today is that Microsoft Research
has code available today that will allow you to experiment with some
pretty advanced mesh networking using your Windows XP machine! 
The Microsoft Research Networking Research Group has released their Mesh Networking software, and even an Mesh Networking Academic Resource Toolkit
I’ve started to go through the documentation, and so far this is a very
impressive solution.  They have embraced and extended some of the
standards that are currently being developed:

We implement ad-hoc routing and link quality measurement in a module that we
call the Mesh Connectivity Layer (MCL). Architecturally, MCL is a loadable
Microsoft Windows driver. It implements a virtual network adapter, so that to
the rest of the system the ad-hoc network appears as an additional (virtual)
network link. MCL routes using a modified version of DSR (an IETF protocol) that
we call Link Quality Source Routing (LQSR). We have modified DSR extensively to
improve its behavior, most significantly to support link quality metrics.

The MCL driver implements an interposition layer between layer 2 (the link
layer) and layer 3 (the network layer). To higher layer software, MCL appears to
be just another Ethernet link, albeit a virtual link. To lower layer software,
MCL appears to be just another protocol running over the physical link.

I am really impressed to see this work this far along.  I have
been waiting for years to see mesh networking hit the masses … and
this is now getting close.  I’m now going to upgrade some of my
wearable computers to Windows XP just to experiment with this!

Mesh Network Experimentation Grows

This announcement is yet another team of people who are capitalizing on
the continuing evolution of wireless hardware and software
capabilities. This team has created an almost “turn-key” solution
for creating wireless mesh networking nodes from inexpensive, and
possibly even older used, computer equipment. They claim to have
completely automated the configuration of the mesh … that is a big
deal. Expect to see more and more of this …

CUWiN Goes Public with Open-Source Mesh System.
The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN) released the
fruit of their efforts at the end of the week: The project is an
open-source effort to provide mesh networking with no center. The
system is self configuring among nodes which need no non-volatile or
permanent storage. To set up a CUWiN network, you burn a CD with the
0.5.5 software later this week and use it to boot a computer with a
support wireless card. The system finds nearby nodes, creates tables,
and establishes itself as part of the network. The software is free and
open source. The full press release is after the jump…. [Wi-Fi Networking News]

WISP.Org … off to a slow start!

Ok … so the holidays got the best of me.  Followed by a lot of
work to prepare for deploying wireless at the Sundance Film Festival in
Park City, Utah.  And also maintaining the
wireless infrastructure.  Working in wireless can keep you
busy.  However it’s always fun to learn something new, and
experiment with new equipment.

That is the kind of information that I had hoped to provide on this
site … experiences and information about deploying and operating
wireless internet services.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll
be introducing some of the people who will be contributing to our
forums.  These are all people from the industry, either WISPs or
manufacturers.  All looking to contribute and educate.

I’ll be doing my best to keep up with them, and to document some of the work that I am doing!

Motorola buys MeshNetworks, it’s time to take notice!

As a Wireless ISP, it is important to stay on top of the various
wireless standards, and technology trends.  “Mesh Networking” has
been a growing innovation for quite some time now, and things are only
going to heat up more.

Last week, we saw some of the larger companies getting more interested in mesh networking when Motorola bought MeshNetworks.  When we start to see the acquisitions like this occurring, the market is warming up and becoming more mature.

What is mesh networking, and why would a WISP care?  Mesh, also
related to Mobile Ad-hoc Networking (MANET), allows each wireless node
to not only send and receive data, but to “repeat” data for other
nodes.  What this means is that each node in a mesh network
becomes a repeater capable of extending the range of your wireless

It is important to understand that mesh networking is not the “end-all”
replacement for more traditional “hub and spoke” designs, however it is
able to complement these designs in areas where you have a higher
density of users.  Consider using mesh solutions in suburban
enclaves, where you would only have to get your wireless backhaul to
the edge of the neighborhood … and then use mesh to cover the homes
within the neighborhood.

Mesh and MANET are still being evolved to address some of the core
issues.  Static mesh networks are more prevalent than mobile
MANETs since the routing between mobile nodes becomes much more complex.

To discuss Mesh or MANET networking, come join the conversations in our MANET and Mesh Networking Forum!  There is already a link to some tutorials posted there …

WISP.Org Forums are coming on line …

We have the initial WISP.Org Forums
taking shape on our web site.  Please stop over and take a look at
the topics that we are creating.  Again, our goal is to create a WISP information resource
…  a place to discuss more than just the technical subjects, but
even more on the business choices and options … and impacts.  We
are also looking for any good tutorials that can be added to the site
to assist WISPs in learning more about upcoming solutions and business
opportunities.  We have already added WiMAX and MANET/Mesh forums
to provide information on how these solutions might contribute to an
overall WISP network.

We are also actively looking for moderators and contributors.  If
you want to lead discussions and have some expertise in a particular
topic, let us know!  If you just want to jump in and start a good
conversation, please feel free.  We also have a variety of authors
who are looking to contribute articles for the home page.  If you
would like to submit an article to be posted, please forward it to us.

We are open to ideas and assistance … we want WISP.Org to truly be a valuable resource.

WISPCON VI in Las Vegas

was held last week – October 27th-29th – in Las Vegas, Nevada. It
was a great show, and demonstrated the constant evolution of the WISP
market. There were course during the show that covered a broad
range of topics, and the Trade Show provided vendors with a place to
show what they are up to.

One of the biggest things that I noticed at the show is that the sizes
of WISPs continues to grow with more and more customers signing up for
Wireless vs. DSL or Cable. There were numerous WISPs present that
had 1000+ customers … a sign of serious networking. And that
led to the next thing that I noticed: WISPs are growing up and
getting serious about business.

There have always been the larger serious players, however more and
more of the smaller WISPs are now moving to new classes of wireless
equipment, and adding new back-office capabilities. WISPs are
getting serious about FCC certified equipment, and the quality of
service they deliver to their customers. They are automating
network management, billing, and customer service.

All of this is great news for WISP.Org … as we continue to move
forward to our December 1st roll out. We are looking to provide
the broad range of business information and expertise to assist the
growing WISP to better understand the market, and their options!

WISP.Org … coming soon …

Several companies in the Wireless ISP market have all realized the
value of building community to increase the sharing of knowledge. L.L.C., working with TenX Networks, is glad to announce the coming of WISP.Org!

WISP.Org will be the on-line resource for Wireless Internet Service
Providers. Using current generation Open Source software (phpBB),
WISP.Org is going to create an on-line community that will tap into the
minds of leading providers of wireless products and services.

Stay tuned … look for updates … our planned rollout will be December 1, 2004!