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What Is Content-Centric Networking?

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  • Written By: Kenneth W. Michael Wills
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2016
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Content-centric networking (CCN) marks an architectural shift in the fundamental design of the Internet. Instead of data being accessed based on its location, such as a server, it can be accessed based on its content. When a user on the Internet requests the data, it can be retrieved from any networked device that is storing it, rather than needing to be retrieved from a specific location on the Internet.

Since its inception, the Internet has focused on communication between fixed devices such as computers. Then, as the Internet evolved, the main focus of interaction with the Internet, from a user’s perspective, revolved around retrieving content. The fundamental design of the Internet did not envision such usage, leading to bottlenecks and slow traffic, often bogging down networks and even crashing servers.

Creative solutions have been devised over the years to prevent the Internet from grinding to a halt, but those solutions rarely addressed the basic underlying design. Content-centric networking changes that reality. CCN is designed to mimic Internet usage patterns, take advantage of existing network infrastructures and solve problems that publishers face in distributing information efficiently to meet demand. This new architectural design allows networks to self-organize so they can deliver relevant content on demand without having to build entire new networks.

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While focused around content delivery, content-centric networking does not neglect the original communication intent of the Internet, however. Even communication relies on networks retrieving and pushing information effectively. For that reason, CCN is designed to anticipate not only informational needs but also the interactions required in retrieving and disseminating that information. The heart of content-centric networking is that it allows automated caching of data anywhere along the network, regardless of the end-user application. Instead of transmitting data according to geographic location, content-centric networking recognizes the type of content and pushes it accordingly.

This means that publishers and providers do not have to house data in any one particular location, such as on a server. All specific data needs are a specific name, and any device that recognizes that data request can respond to it from its cached memory. A content-centric network can take advantage of any means available to both acquire and deliver content to users. It accomplishes this task through the restructuring of network resource management and information distribution. This results in a network that is highly adaptable and flexible without having to remove the underlying infrastructure and replace it with new components.

The paradigm of content-centric networks means that networks no longer center on hubs of information, but instead, the network itself is built of self-aware content. A user with a laptop in train no longer has to rely on connecting to a wireless hot spot, navigating to a website, finding and then and reviewing or responding to a specific set of data, such as a blog post. Instead, that user might simply bounce off the smart phone user in the same train and review or respond to the blog post in seconds. Although simplified, this explains the potential of content-centric networking in action for an end user.

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