LandMARC Success for Lancaster University: The Contribution of Mobile IPv6 Source Code to Microsoft Windows Server and Windows CE .NET
Published: January 1, 2004
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Lancaster University uses Microsoft Windows source code to support experimental aspects of its research. In early 2002, Lancaster achieved notable success when two Microsoft product groups adopted LandMARC project source code: the Windows Server IPv6 group and the Windows CE .NET Core—OS group.
The Department of Computer Science at Lancaster University is one of the leading centers for networking and distributed multimedia research in the United Kingdom. Like most other academic research groups, the Lancaster team traditionally employed Unix—based operating systems—typically NetBSD, FreeBSD or Linux. Some of the Lancaster Ph.D. students, however, began experimenting with Microsoft Windows® source code as an alternative to these more established research platforms.
By early 1999, a Windows-based source—code thesis project had been submitted, and senior academics at Lancaster were convinced that Windows source code offered their team an alternative research platform for experimental work. Lancaster decided to use Windows as the basis for their efforts, and approached the University Relations Team at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England, for support.
Launched in October 1999, this venture eventually became the Lancaster and Microsoft Active Research Collaboration (LandMARC) project. The most celebrated brainchild of LandMARC is an implementation of Mobile IPv6 in the Windows operating system.
One objective of LandMARC was to develop an implementation of Mobile IPv6 on the Windows operating system for research purposes. Mobile IPv6 enables a mobile device to retain the use of its IPv6 address after leaving the "home" network for which that address is valid. Thus, applications programmed to contact the device at that address may do so directly, and network connections bound to that address survive movement of the device.
The Internet Engineering Task Force, a leading Internet-standards organization, had been defining a new generation of Internet protocol known as Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). The starting point for the LandMARC development of Mobile IPv6 was the MSR 1.4 protocol stack for IPv6, developed and released in source form for research purposes on Microsoft Windows NT® 4.0. The MSR 1.4 stack did not support Mobile IPv6 machines, and the work of extending the code to enable it to do so initially was undertaken at Lancaster University. The result was a working implementation of Mobile IPv6 for Windows 2000, which was released for research purposes through the Microsoft Research Web site in January 2001.
During one of the Lancaster team's several visits to Microsoft corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, the Windows CE product group expressed interest in the Mobile IPv6 project. It was decided that the LandMARC project would be extended to include the Windows CE operating system. What followed was a stellar example of distributed teamwork among Lancaster, Cambridge, and Redmond. In January 2002, the exercise was declared complete and ownership of the source code moved from Lancaster to Microsoft in time for the next phase of Windows CE development. The Mobile IPv6 source code now resides in the source repositories for Windows Server and Windows CE .NET.
Criteria for Success
From an academic perspective, the joint endeavor can be declared a success on the strengths of the number of papers published and the number of Ph.D. candidates who have used or who now use Windows source in pursuit of their degrees.
Microsoft Research invests 75 million dollars annually, working with educational and research organizations and maintaining five substantial labs of its own in Redmond, Beijing, Silicon Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Cambridge. The work is both theoretical and applied, and Microsoft, committed to supporting innovation, employs a dedicated, experienced staff to help put research teams and product groups in contact with one another and to facilitate the transfer of technology and research ideas among groups.
Phil Fawcett, a veteran of numerous Microsoft product releases, is responsible for the Windows Division, the Digital Media Division and the Cambridge Research Lab. Speaking to Microsoft researchers in Cambridge, he explained how Microsoft development-group staffers tend to view research: "They may ask you how many papers you've had published, and they may or may not care. They may even ask you how many patents you've obtained; and they may care, but usually not much. What they really care about is this: the impact your technology and research will have or has had on any of the product lines and Microsoft customers."
The Microsoft Research Source Licensing Program authorizes faculty, staff and students of licensed institution to use, reproduce, and modify source code and related confidential information provided by Microsoft either for educational purposes or for commercially or governmentally sponsored research. The LandMARC project clearly demonstrates the potential for rewarding technology transformation from academic research into practical business applications.
The success of the work at Lancaster University proves that talented academic researchers can successfully exploit Windows source code, with success defined either by conventional academic criteria or by criteria Microsoft applies to its own professional research groups. It demonstrates also that university researchers can establish close rapport with Microsoft's research and development groups, and that the academic and commercial sectors can work in partnership to develop top-quality operating-system code.
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