Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Dream of GENI

With all the talk of regulation and self regulation of the blogosphere, it turns out that the hardware and software infrastructure it all depends on is beginning to show its age. Apparently, the technology is now forty years old and was originally developed, obviously, with completely different levels of speed and storage capacity in mind. Yesterday’s Melbourne Age reported,

According to ‘Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. "It's sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today."’

The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a "clean slate" approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on September 2, 1969.

It was actually a lot more recent than that when ordinary personal computers had no hard disk, 64 KILObytes of RAM, and Z80 processors ran at speeds of up to 8kHz! Probably some people reading this won’t even remember the 5¼ inch floppy, much less the 8 inch kind!

Anyway, when they first developed the internet

The internet's early architects built the system on the principle of trust. Researchers largely knew one another, so they kept the shared network open and flexible £ qualities that proved key to its rapid growth.

But spammers and hackers arrived as the network expanded and could roam freely because the internet doesn't have built-in mechanisms for knowing with certainty who sent what.

So now there are moves afoot to build a whole new internet.

One challenge in any reconstruction, though, will be balancing the interests of various constituencies. The first time around, researchers were able to toil away in their labs quietly. Industry is playing a bigger role this time, and law enforcement is bound to make its needs for wiretapping known.

There's no evidence they are meddling yet, but once any research looks promising, "a number of people (will) want to be in the drawing room," said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor affiliated with Oxford and Harvard universities. "They'll be wearing coats and ties and spilling out of the venue."

They reckon it will take another ten to fifteen years to develop the new architecture and there are clearly different models competing for the huge amounts of money it’s going to require.

The National Science Foundation wants to build an experimental research network known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI, and is funding several projects at universities and elsewhere through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND.

Rutgers, Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the universities pursuing individual projects. Other government agencies, including the Defense Department, have also been exploring the concept.

The European Union has also backed research on such initiatives, through a program known as Future Internet Research and Experimentation, or FIRE.

Anyway, when it all comes online, I think it’s reasonable to anticipate that the socialistic ideas of the founding parents of the internet will be a thing of the past. We will get strictly what we pay for and privacy and security, to the extent that they still exist today, will be a fond memory. So if we want to continue to enjoy the kind of free communication that the internet has made possible in the last couple of decades, there’s only one solution…

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