Work has led to the improved efficiency and security of data transmission over the Internet

Lixia Zhang, a researcher whose work on Internet architecture has led to improved protocol designs and security, is being honored with the 2009 Internet Award. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional society.

The award, sponsored by Nokia Corporation, recognizes Zhang for contributions toward an understanding of the complex interactions between Internet components and the development of the Internet architecture. The award will be presented on 21 April 2009 at the 28th IEEE Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Known as a leader of a number of Internet innovations, Zhang’s work has had a major influence on Internet vendors, network operators, network researchers, and standards developers. Zhang was instrumental in the development of the Resource ReSerVation Protocol (RSVP), which is widely used today for Internet resource management and traffic control applications. Implemented by almost every major router vendor, RSVP distributes and maintains resource reservation information to all routers along a given data path in order to control resource usage and data delivery quality. RSVP can maintain resource reservations in a scalable and robust manner despite potential routing changes and component failures.

Zhang coined the term “middlebox” to describe a new class of Internet devices that were not part of the original Internet architecture. These devices include the Web proxies, firewalls and network address translators that operate between different servers and computers using the Internet. The term is now part of standard Internet terminology.

Zhang has also been active in improving security for critical Internet infrastructure services, such as protecting the global routing system and Domain Name System (DNS).

Some of Zhang’s other contributions include a global scale measurement of the DNS that exposed widespread misconfiguration problems, her effort on the Internet Autonomous System topology measurement that shed new insight on the dynamics and future trend of Internet connectivity; and her measurement and analysis studies on today’s Internet routing infrastructure that have led to a new design to overcome the long outstanding scalability problem in the existing Internet routing architecture.

An IEEE and Association for Computing Machinery Fellow, Zhang was honored in 1993 for her article on RSVP – one of ten landmark articles reprinted in the 50th anniversary issue of IEEE Communications Magazine (May 2002). Zhang also received the Xerox Excellence in Science and Technology Award in 1994. She is currently a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she directs the Internet Research Lab that she founded. Zhang is a member of the Internet Architecture Board and co-chair of the Internet Research Task Force’s Routing Research Group.

She received her bachelor’s/first degree from Heilongjiang University, Harbin, China, in 1976; a master’s of science in electrical engineering from California State University at Los Angeles in 1981; and a doctorate in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, in 1989.