Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Addressing the Future Internet

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[Excellent commentary by Geoff Huston on future of the Internet -- BSA]

Addressing the Future Internet
Feb 09, 2007 | Inside: Exploring Frontlines
Posted by Geoff Huston Comments | Print | Email

The National Science Foundation of the United States and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development held a joint workshop on January 31, 2007 to consider the social and economic factors shaping the future of the Internet. The presentations and position papers from the Workshop are available online.

Is Internet incrementalism a sufficient approach to answer tomorrow’s needs for communications? Can we get to useful outcomes by just allowing research and industry to make progressive marginal piecemeal changes to the Internet’s operational model? That’s a tough question to answer without understanding the alternatives to incrementalism. Its probably an equally hard question to attempt to phrase future needs outside of the scope of the known Internet’s capabilities. Its hard to quantify a need for something that simply has no clear counterpart in today’s Internet. But maybe we can phrase the question in a way that does allow some forms of insight on the overall question. One form of approach is to ask: What economic and social factors are shaping our future needs and expectations for communications systems?

This question was the theme of a joint National Science Foundation (NSF) and Organisation for Economic Co Operation and Development (OECD) workshop, held on the 31st January of this year. The approach taken for this workshop was to assemble a group of technologists, economists, industry, regulatory and political actors and ask each of them to consider a small set of specific questions related to a future Internet.

Thankfully, this exercise was not just another search for the next “Killer App”, nor a design exercise for IP version 7. It was a valuable opportunity to pause and reflect on some of the sins of omission in today’s Internet and ask why, and reflect on some of the unintended consequences of the Internet and ask if they were truly unavoidable consequences. Was spam a necessary outcome of the Internet’s model of mail delivery? Why has multi-lingualism been so hard? Is network manageability truly a rather poor afterthought? Why has Quality of Service proved to be a commercial failure? Can real time applications sit comfortably on a packet switched network that is dominated by rate adaptive transport applications? Why are trust and identity such difficult concepts in this particular model of networking? How did we achieve this particular set of outcomes with this particular Internet framework? Can we conceive of a different Internet model where different outcomes would’ve happened as naturally?


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