"Overlay Network Creation and Maintenance with Selfish Users"
Georgios Smaragdakis.
PhD Dissertation, Boston University, 2008.

Overlay networks have been used for adding and enhancing functionality to the end-users without requiring modifications in the Internet core mechanisms. Overlay networks have been used for a variety of popular applications including routing, file sharing, content distribution, and server deployment. Previous work has focused on devising practical neighbor selection heuristics under the assumption that users conform to a specific wiring protocol. This is not a valid assumption in highly decentralized systems like overlay networks. Overlay users may act selfishly and deviate from the default wiring protocols by utilizing knowledge they have about the network when selecting neighbors to improve the performance they receive from the overlay.

This thesis goes against the conventional thinking that overlay users conform to a specific protocol. The contributions of this thesis are threefold. It provides a systematic evaluation of the design space of selfish neighbor selection strategies in real overlays, evaluates the performance of overlay networks that consist of users that select their neighbors selfishly, and examines the implications of selfish neighbor and server selection to overlay protocol design and service provisioning respectively.

This thesis develops a game-theoretic framework that provides a unified approach to modeling Selfish Neighbor Selection (SNS) wiring procedures on behalf of selfish users. The model is general, and takes into consideration costs reflecting network latency and user preference profiles, the inherent directionality in overlay maintenance protocols, and connectivity constraints imposed on the system designer. Within this framework the notion of user's ``best response" wiring strategy is formalized as a k-median problem on asymmetric distance and is used to obtain overlay structures in which no node can re-wire to improve the performance it receives from the overlay. Evaluation results presented in this thesis indicate that selfish users can reap substantial performance benefits when connecting to overlay networks composed of non-selfish users. In addition, in overlays that are dominated by selfish users, the resulting stable wirings are optimized to such great extent that even non-selfish newcomers can extract near-optimal performance through naive wiring strategies.

To capitalize on the performance advantages of optimal neighbor selection strategies and the emergent global wirings that result, this thesis presents EGOIST: an SNS-inspired overlay network creation and maintenance routing system. Through an extensive measurement study on the deployed prototype, results presented in this thesis show that EGOIST's neighbor selection primitives outperform existing heuristics on a variety of performance metrics, including delay, available bandwidth, and node utilization. Moreover, these results demonstrate that EGOIST is competitive with an optimal but unscalable full-mesh approach, remains highly effective under significant churn, is robust to cheating, and incurs minimal overheads.

This thesis also studies selfish neighbor selection strategies for swarming applications. The main focus is on n-way broadcast applications where each of n overlay user wants to push its own distinct file to all other destinations as well as download their respective data files. Results presented in this thesis demonstrate that the performance of our swarming protocol for n-way broadcast on top of overlays of selfish users is far superior than the performance on top of existing overlays.

In the context of service provisioning, this thesis examines the use of distributed approaches that enable a provider to determine the number and location of servers for optimal delivery of content or services to its selfish end-users. To leverage recent advances in virtualization technologies, this thesis develops and evaluates a distributed protocol to migrate servers based on end-users demand and only on local topological knowledge. Results under a range of network topologies and workloads suggest that the performance of the distributed deployment is comparable to that of the optimal but unscalable centralized deployment.

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