[tforum] [Fwd: [CAnet - news] Reinventing the internet - the Economist]

Joe Breen Joe.Breen@utah.edu
Tue, 14 Mar 2006 15:21:08 -0700

The following article is of interest for those monitoring what is 
upcoming on the Internet...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [CAnet - news] Reinventing the internet - the Economist
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2006 10:11:19 -0500
From: Bill St.Arnaud <bill.st.arnaud@canarie.ca>
Reply-To: bill.st.arnaud@canarie.ca
To: news@canarie.ca

For more information on this item please visit the CANARIE CA*net 4 Optical
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[Excellent article in this week's Economist on reinventing the Internet.
Some excerpts -- BSA]


Reinventing the internet
Mar 9th 2006

Networking: New initiatives aim to overhaul the internet. But how can a
"clean slate" redesign ever be implemented?

Ever since the internet's inception in 1969 engineers have tweaked it in a
piecemeal fashion. That the system has scaled up well enough to handle
almost 1 billion users and blazingly fast fibre-optic links is nothing short
of amazing. But as the internet has grown, so too have problems such as
spam, viruses and "denial of service" attacks that can cripple large
websites-not to mention the challenge of accommodating all kinds of new
devices, from cars to mobile phones to wireless sensors. "We've pretty much
exhausted the tweaks we can do," says Tom Anderson of the University of

As a result, a handful of the internet's original pioneers, along with a
gaggle of young Turks, are now putting their heads together to consider how
to fix the network's shortcomings-not by fiddling with a few things here or
there, but by starting again from scratch. To this end, America's National
Science Foundation (NSF) has launched two initiatives. The first, Global
Environment for Networking Innovations (GENI), is a project to build an
advanced test-bed network for piloting new protocols and applications. In
January the project's leaders produced their conceptual design plan, and
they must now lobby for the money to implement it. The second project,
Future Internet Design (FIND), will examine how best to equip the internet
for the needs of the future. In December, the NSF asked for FIND proposals
from the engineering research community, which are due this month.

The aim of these schemes is to prompt academic engineers to think afresh for
the longer term. "The challenging question is: can we conceive a vision for
what a global communications network will look like in ten or 15 years? To
do that, you have to free yourself from what the world looks like now," says
David Clark of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who helped to
design the internet, and now is trying to fix it."The internet is so obvious
that it is hard to contemplate what a non-internet would look like," he


Soul of a new network
The idea of metanets also provides an answer to the question of how to
deploy a new clean-slate internet. Metanets would, in effect, allow multiple
internets to run in parallel. There could then be competition between
different protocols; and if one of the metanet protocols turned out to be
much more secure, for instance, then security-sensitive users would have a
reason to adopt it. Perhaps the clean-slate approach is not quite as
esoteric and academic as it seems.

Before a Darwinian internet of competing metanets can emerge, however,
engineers must dream up new ideas and devise new protocols, which will take
time. And as well as confronting technical hurdles, the engineers vying to
redesign the internet will undoubtedly find themselves caught up in social,
political and economic arguments. That is because while the internet's
existing architecture fosters innovation and promotes free speech, for
example, it also allows spam and illegal music downloads to flourish. In
reconsidering the technological underpinnings of the network, the engineers
will inherently be making choices with far wider implications.

"When ever you design an architecture like this, you're not just designing a
technical solution, but also designing an industry structure," says Dr
Clark. It may well transpire that the greatest impediment to upgrading the
internet will turn out to be political disagreements over how it should
work, rather than the technical difficulty of bringing it about.

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