A cautionary perspective on cross-layer design Academic Article uri icon


  • Recently, in an effort to improve the performance of wireless networks, there has been increased interest in protocols that rely on interactions between different layers. However, such cross-layer design can run at cross purposes with sound and longer-term architectural principles, and lead to various negative consequences. This motivates us to step back and reexamine holistically the issue of cross-layer design and its architectural ramifications. We contend that a good architectural design leads to proliferation and longevity, and illustrate this with some historical examples. Even though the wireless medium is fundamentally different from the wired one, and can offer undreamt of modalities of cooperation, we show that the conventional layered architecture is a reasonable way to operate wireless networks, and is in fact optimal up to an order. However the temptation and perhaps even the need to optimize by incorporating cross-layer adaptation cannot be ignored, so we examine the issues involved. We show that unintended cross-layer interactions can have undesirable consequences on overall system performance. We illustrate them by certain cross-layer schemes loosely based on recent proposals. We attempt to distill a few general principles for cross-layer design, Moreover, unbridled cross-layer design can lead to spaghetti design, which can stifle further innovation and be difficult to upkeep. At a critical time when wireless networks may be on the cusp of massive proliferation, the architectural considerations may be paramount. We argue that it behooves us to exercise caution while engaging in cross-layer design.

published proceedings

  • IEEE wireless communications

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Kawadia, V., & Kumar, P. R.

citation count

  • 456

complete list of authors

  • Kawadia, V||Kumar, PR

publication date

  • February 2005