Na Kika — a unified architecture for edge-side content processing

[ Overview | Talks & Publications | Deployment | People ]

Research Overview

The goal of the Na Kika project is to foster collaboration and innovation on web-based applications by making the internet's edge easily extensible. Edge-side content management is attractive because it reduces load on origin servers, bandwidth consumption across the internet, and latency for clients. Based on similar observations, commercial content distribution networks (CDNs) already offer edge-side hosting services. However, to manage the trust necessary for exposing their hosting infrastructures to other people's code, they also rely on traditional, contract-based business relationships. As a result, they are ill-suited to collaborative or community-based development efforts. In contrast, Na Kika seeks to make the benefits of edge-side hosting available to any content producer; it provides the technological basis for automatically reconciling the tension between extensibility and security.

Under our architecture, all interactions between clients and servers are mediated by edge-side proxies. Hosted services and applications are expressed as scripts, which are selected based on predicates on HTTP messages and composed into a pipeline of content processing steps. Individual scripts are isolated from each other; they also are subject to resource limits based on overall system congestion instead of inflexible a-priori quotas. Security policies are expressed through the same predicates as regular application functionality, with the result that policies are as easily extensible as hosted code and that enforcement is an integral aspect of content processing. Additionally, edge-side proxies coordinate with each other through a structured overlay network, cooperatively caching both original and processed content.

Our work is motivated by the Advanced Learning Exchange (ALEX) project. ALEX brings together researchers from the NYU School of Medicine, the Department of Computer Science, the Center for Teaching Excellence, the NYU libraries, and NYU Information Technology Services. The goal is to design, deploy, and evaluate a novel web-based educational environment that (1) provides ubiquitous and lifelong access to educational and scientific materials, (2) structures educational content along narrative lines to re-establish missing context, and (3) fosters a community of students and practitioners not bound by geography. We are working towards realizing ALEX on top of Na Kika, so that ALEX can support the 67,000 medical students in the U.S. as well as the 850,000 physicians in the field.

A note on the name: Our project is named after the octopus-god of the Gilbert Islands, who puts his many arms to good use during the great earth construction project.

Talks & Publications




Current members are: Robert Grimm, Guy Lichtman, Nikolaos Michalakis, Robert Soule.

The folllowing students have also contributed to this project: Amos Elliston, Adam Kravetz, Jonathan Miller, and Sajid Raza.

This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0537252 and by the New York Software Industry Association. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.