Towards Ultimate Convergence of All Networks (TOUCAN)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Global demand for broadband communications continues to increase substantially every year. A major factor contributing to this demand is the growing number of fixed and mobile broadband users, data-hungry applications like video as well as an ever-increasing number of network-connected everyday objects and machines. It is forecast that by 2020 the number of network-connected devices will reach 1000 times the world's population while data volumes transported over networks will progressively grow to Zettabytes and upwards.

These trends pose entirely new challenges related to data volume, granularity, end-to-end connectivity and reach as well as increasing heterogeneity in network technologies (i.e. wireless and wired), networked-connected devices (i.e. sensors, mobile phones, computers, TVs, Data Centres) and services (i.e. Tbps data transfer for e-science, ultra-low latency financial transaction, real-time media streaming, kbps for sensor-based monitoring). Addressing these challenges necessitates radically new network models supporting convergence of traditionally separate network technology domains and offering high flexibility and adaptability in data granularity and throughput.

TOUCAN aims to achieve ultimate network convergence enabled by a radically new technology agnostic architecture targeting a wide range of applications and end users. This architecture will facilitate optimal interconnection of any network technology domains, networked devices and data sets with high flexibility, resource and energy efficiency, and will aim to satisfy the full range of Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) requirements.

TOUCAN will realise its goals by including the network infrastructure and its control as part of the end-to-end service delivery chain. Important enablers will be that of separating the data and control planes, which will rely on Software Defined Networking (SDN) principles. TOUCAN will drastically evolve SDN to incorporate fundamentally new technology-specific interfacing and resource description followed by infrastructure resource abstraction, virtualisation and programmability. These features will enable any network technology and device to become "TOUCAN-ready" which means that the devices are programmable and interoperable. This is the foundation upon which the technology-agnostic feature of the TOUCAN architecture will be realized; thereby ultimate seamless end-to-end convergence will be achieved.

TOUCAN will revolutionize the way we build and operate communication networks in a similar way that computer networks and more recently mobile terminals were transformed from platform-oriented to platform-agnostic solutions (e.g. through Linux and Android) and will drive towards commoditisation of network devices. Any new technology generation, regardless whether wired or wireless, will connect to the TOUCAN network in a plug-and-play fashion.

Our research will open up a new network innovation eco-system, which will allow for the first time applications to compose, deploy and program their own virtual network infrastructures, as part of the service delivery mechanism to optimally support their specific and very diverse requirements. Such an environment will be able to adapt to challenging and unpredictable infrastructure and service evolution scenarios, meeting future application requirements.

This highly challenging £12M project will bring together an Internationally renowned team of academics for a period of 5 years, allowing in depth technical exploration based on holistic and radical thinking in order to achieve the project goals. 58 person years of postdoctoral researcher time are requested for TOUCAN while the Universities have allocated a further 30 person years or more of PhD students. The TOUCAN consortium includes an impressive list of external partners who collectively are committing critical and tangible resources in excess of £3.6M.

Planned Impact

TOUCAN aims to generate significant impact to Industry, the academic community and the general public.

The most direct impact will target the Programme Industrial Partners (BROADCOM, BT, NEC, Plextek, and Samsung). All Programme Partners have been engaged in the shaping of the TOUCAN vision, which they consider to be critical for their future technology roadmaps, as demonstrated by the significant amount of resources committed to the project (see attached letters). It is expected that new industrial partners will join the initial team as the research unfolds and TOUCAN is being established as a world-leading research project.

Industrial partners will benefit from having direct insight into the TOUCAN developments and they will be encouraged to provide advice regarding exploitation (i.e. through universities spin-out companies). In addition, our partners will host PDRAs in their premises and therefore have opportunities to guide the research and leverage skills developed within the project.

To engage the wider industrial sector, we plan a series of 5 Industrial Workshops during the Programme lifetime. To ensure broad industrial participation in these events, we will work closely with the Strategic Advisory Board (SAB: BBC, IBM, DoCoMo, Deutsche Telekom, iMinds, i2CAT, University of Leeds) and fora such as the ICT-KTN, the Local Enterprise Parnerships, Mobile VCE, GreenTouch, and EU technology platforms (e.g. Net!Works and Photonics21).

A further key activity to achieving sustainable impact will be contributions to industry standards (e.g. ITU-T, ETSI, IETF, TMF) and to a number of new SDN-focused standard bodies in which we will engage, including ONF, Open Daylight and Open Stack. Where standards and specification gaps exist we will look to initiate new standards or even create new working groups.

Technology demonstrations in the TOUCAN Lab will be another focal point for dissemination and impact. The TOUCAN Lab will offer an open ecosystem for broad experimentation among researchers, industry, service and content providers and users. Our goal is to build an active user group of our platforms and experimental infrastructure by making prototypes available under an open source license. We plan to utilize the close relationship with Watershed ( to reach user groups (i.e. creative and media industries) and communities (i.e. education) that can consume TOUCAN services and engage them through the Bristol City Council test network to demonstrate the benefits of the new technology platforms. Collaborative TOUCAN implementations, development of use cases, proof of concept testing will provide user groups and industry with instruments for exploring the theoretical and practical aspects of TOUCAN and make them advocates of the Programme vision.

The consortium will also build an array of activities targeting academic impact as described in "Academic Beneficiaries". In addition, TOUCAN will be an excellent platform for attracting and training PhD students and contribute to the longer-term needs of the industry by helping to develop much needed skills for the UK companies and the wider technology and research sector.

Our public engagement activities will align with both EPSRC's and the Universities' plans for delivering public impact. Academic teams will be supported to engage as STEM ambassadors for schools, community science events and also engaging with existing 'Headstart' activities. As the programme advances, we will aim to contribute to events such as the annual National Science and Engineering Week and Royal Society Summer Exhibition.

Throughout the Programme, we will work with the University Press Officers to develop press releases, which will announce relevant notable events and major scientific and/or commercial progress.

TOUCAN's outreach and impact targets will be delivered under the leadership of Prof Harald Haas who will be supported by the TOUCAN Project Manager.
Description We have just completed the first year of this 5 year project.

New technology resource description and abstraction models have been developed driving the cloudification of the network infrastructure
Exploitation Route Yes, we are communicating our findings through conference presentations to the research community and industry
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Description It led to the creation of the spin out company: Zeetta Networks
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Economic
Company Name Zeetta Networks 
Description Zeetta Networks is a spin-out company from the University of Bristol developing and marketing Open Networking solutions for heterogeneous networks based on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) principles. 
Year Established 2015 
Impact The company's main product is NetOS®, a Network Operating System which offers a "USB-like", plug-n-play management of all connected network devices and enables the construction of virtual "network slices" (i.e. separate logically-isolated sub-networks) for the deployment of B2B or B2C services such as Ultra-HD video distribution, City-wide Wi-Fi, Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M deployments, etc.
Description Baguette: Towards end-to-end service orchestration in heterogeneous networks 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact bstract-Network services are the key mechanism for operators
to introduce intelligence and generate profit from their
infrastructures. The growth of the number of network users
and the stricter application network requirements have highlighted
a number of challenges in orchestrating services using
existing production management and configuration protocols
and mechanisms. Recent networking paradigms like Software
Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization
(NFV), provide a set of novel control and management interfaces
that enable unprecedented automation, flexibility and openness
capabilities in operator infrastructure management. This paper
presents Baguette, a novel and open service orchestration framework
for operators. Baguette supports a wide range of network
technologies, namely optical and wired Ethernet technologies, and
allows service providers to automate the deployment and dynamic
re-optimization of network services. We present the design of the
orchestrator and elaborate on the integration of Baguette with
existing low-level network and cloud management frameworks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016