New Network Protocol Zenoh Slashes the Energy Required to Send Data

November 29, 2022 by Aaron Carman

Identifying a major flaw in communication technology, ZettaScale has created Zenoh, a flexible protocol built with a focus on data and efficiency.

A new communications protocol, Zenoh, has joined the robust wireless ecosystem. Created by data management technologist ZettaScale, Zenoh is designed to streamline communication between devices in many architectures, running on various devices from server-level machines to embedded systems.

Zenoh maximizes energy efficiency through overhead minimization. That is, the protocol can be deployed quickly as a “translator” between the data link and physical layers, allowing Zenoh to be integrated into existing systems.


Zenoh’s place alongside the various layers in the OSI model

Zenoh’s place alongside the various layers in the OSI model, allowing efficient communication between constrained devices. 


To understand exactly how Zenoh can offer such performance improvements, All About Circuits sat down with the ZettaScale CEO and CTO, Dr. Angelo Corsaro, Ph.D., to pick his brain about the protocol and the roadmap ahead for Zenoh, the "little blue dragon protocol."


Zenoh Finds the Path of Least Resistance (And Energy)

In the age of modern computing, more and more of the actual computation is done at distributed data centers. In a smart home, for example, some devices may use a cloud link to operate without requiring a supported router in the home.

Dr. Corsaro remarked, “If you take this to the extreme, some people communicate with a cloud service that is sitting thousands of kilometers away just to turn off a light that is in the same room. Give me a break, right?"

This effect is compounded when considering the number of intermediate devices along the path. On a large scale, a tremendous amount of energy is lost before any computation is done. In addition, custom networks can pose a unique problem.

“All of a sudden you have a problem in which you have a system that really spans from the data center down to a microcontroller. You're spanning from enterprise-scale networks down to low power networks, which are very constrained,” Dr. Corsaro said. “It's cumbersome, it's a waste of time.”


The path for data travel in a Zenoh Pub/Sub system

The path for data travel in a Zenoh pub/sub system. Note that the data is transmitted only to the routers/devices on the shortest path. 


At its core, Zenoh is a highly adaptable protocol emphasizing data efficiency. These traits make it popular for robotics, where more energy should be spent on local computations versus communication, and for many more emerging technologies where communication efficiency is key.


No One Model to Rule Them All

With networking use cases on the rise, developers have created more models to abstract a network of devices. Even popular paradigms like pub/sub and query, however, come with tradeoffs that ZettaScale hopes to alleviate with Zenoh

Designed for flexible data management and transfer in edge computing applications, Zenoh allows organizations to store data anywhere in their network. With this method, ZettaScale claims Zenoh slashes data transfer energy by a significant percentage. 

 In Zenoh, pub/sub is accomplished by finding the shortest path (energy-wise) to transmit data to and from devices. The query paradigm similarly leverages Zenoh to find the most efficient path to storage and queryable devices.

“Zenoh is the first protocol that provides you with pub/sub and distributed query. Regardless of where I am in the network, I issue a query, and the query is answered,” Dr. Corsaro explained.


Example of a Zenoh-connected system showing both router/client and peer-to-peer networks

Example of a Zenoh-connected system showing both router/client and peer-to-peer networks. 


In addition to supporting pub/sub and query models, the Zenoh protocol further supports both peer-to-peer modes and router/client modes, as well as combinations of the two. For example, a mesh network may be connected to routers to provide easy local communication within the mesh while also giving the network the option for communication outside the mesh if needed.


The Future of Zenoh

Despite being in its early stages, numerous robotics and communications companies have already adopted the protocol. Even the U.S. Department of Transportation has tapped Zenoh for testing autonomous vehicle technology. Other notable use cases include an autonomous train system in Europe and a robotic dog project in the U.S. Air Force. 

When asked about the future of Zenoh, Dr. Corsaro commented:

“We remain a technology company with a customer-focused, strong work ethic. All of what we have done and what we do is solve real problems for our end user. I think we have a track record of showing that we are kind of stubborn. If we think that there is a problem, even if people are not seeing it yet, we start working on it.” 

Although the future of Zenoh is still unfolding, the protocol represents an exciting step forward in network efficiency. Broader adoption of Zenoh may spell out a massive increase in efficiency for connected devices—opening the gates for higher data speeds by capitalizing on data transmission and reducing protocol overhead.



All images courtesy of ZettaScale.