Technical Reports (CIS)

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version

January 2003


University of Pennsylvania Department of Computer and Information Science Technical Report No. MS-CIS-03-05.


Interactions among telecommunications networks, computers, and other peripheral devices have been of interest since the earliest distributed computing systems. A key architectural question is the location (and nature) of programmability. One perspective, that examined in this paper, is that network elements should be as programmable as possible, in order to build the most flexible distributed computing systems.

This paper presents my personal view of the history of programmable networking over the last two decades, and in the spirit of "vox audita perit, littera scripta manet", includes an account of how what is now called "Active Networking" came into being. It demonstrates the deep roots Active Networking has in the programming languages, networking and operating systems communities, and shows how interdisciplinary approaches can have impacts greater than the sums of their parts. Lessons are drawn both from the broader research agenda, and the specific goals pursued in the SwitchWare project. I close by speculating on possible futures for Active Networking.



Date Posted: 04 August 2005