Despite the best efforts of networking researchers and practitioners, an ideal Internet experience is inaccessible to an overwhelming majority of people the world over, mainly due to the lack of cost-efficient ways of provisioning high-performance, global Internet. In this paper, we argue that instead of an exclusive focus on a utopian goal of universally accessible “ideal networking” (in which we have a high throughput and quality of service as well as low latency and congestion), we should consider providing “approximate networking” through the adoption of context-appropriate trade-offs. In this regard, we propose to leverage the advances in the emerging trend of “approximate computing” that rely on relaxing the bounds of precise/exact computing to provide new opportunities for improving the area, power, and performance efficiency of systems by orders of magnitude by embracing output errors in resilient applications. Furthermore, we propose to extend the dimensions of approximate computing towards various knobs available at network layers. Approximate networking can be used to provision “Global Access to the Internet for All” (GAIA) in a pragmatically tiered fashion, in which different users around the world are provided a different context-appropriate (but still contextually functional) Internet experience.
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