University of Pennsylvania Awarded $7.5 Million From NSF to Contribute “Nebula” to Next Internet Architecture

PHILADELPHIA –- A collaboration of network researchers led by Jonathan Smith of the University of Pennsylvania has been awarded $7.5 million by the National Science Foundation to help build a network architecture, Nebula, to support trustworthy “cloud computing” with a secure, more robust next-generation Internet.

The interdisciplinary team includes computer scientists, legal scholars and an economist and will collaborate with industrial researchers from Cisco Systems Inc.

The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the NSF has awarded four new projects, each worth as much as to $8 million during three years, as part of the Future Internet Architecture program.  The projects are part of a challenge to the network science research community to look past the constraints of today's networks and engage in collaborative, long-range, transformative thinking inspired by lessons learned and promising new research ideas.

Penn’s Nebula Project, one of the four funded programs, will be led by Smith, the Olga and Alberico Pompa Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at Penn.  Nebula, Latin for “cloud,” is an architecture in which cloud computing data centers will be the primary repositories of data and the primary locus of computation.  In this future model to be developed by the Nebula team, data centers will be connected by a high-speed, extremely reliable and secure backbone network.  The project focuses on developing new trustworthy data, control and core networking approaches to support the emerging cloud computing model of always-available network services.  Smith and his colleagues will address the technical challenges in creating a cloud-computing-centric architecture.

The growing trend toward migrating storage, computation and applications into the "cloud" is creating unprecedented opportunities for global-scale, network-centric computing infrastructure, enabling new ways of fast resource provisioning, utility pricing and consistent and easy management.

“Security and privacy are major challenges for the emerging cloud computing model, and Nebula research will address security challenges in the network with new approaches to reliability, availability, confidentiality and other system properties,” Smith said.

Smith will collaborate with researchers from Cornell University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Purdue University, Stanford University, Stevens Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Delaware, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Texas and the University of Washington.

“As our reliance on a secure and highly dependable information technology infrastructure continues to increase, it is no longer clear that emerging and future needs of our society can be met by the current trajectory of incremental changes to the current Internet," said Ty Znati, director of the Computer and Network Systems Division within CISE.  "Thus our call to the research community to propose new Internet architectures that hold promise for the future."

The four basic research and system design projects funded under the Future Internet Architecture program explore different dimensions of the network architecture design space and emphasize different visions of future networks.  The FIA projects include leaders in computer science and electrical engineering as well as experts in law, economics, security, privacy and public policy.  The program will support 60 researchers at more than 30 institutions across the country.

Additional information is available at