A More Simple Infrastructure

By John Day  |  Posted 2008-05-01 Print this article Print

At this stage, everyone should be focused on what they can do with the Internet, rather than patching a 30-year-old design in order to keep the plumbing working. It's as if we are trying to run the world's financial markets, hospitals, air traffic control and a myriad of other things while hacking on the equivalent of DOS to keep it running (rather than simply using a complete OS like VMS or UNIX). Oh wait! That's right! That is what we are doing!

Any new efforts should be towards moving to a complete network architecture; making the infrastructure more simple - not more complex. We should be reducing the "parts count" - not increasing it. We should be solving problems, not papering over them. 

"Why is that not happening? Is the Internet architecture running out of steam?" you may ask.

Well, yes. And if it wasn't for Moore's Law, it would have happened a long time ago - which actually might have been a godsend. We might have fixed all of this before so many people depended on it.

"But didn't they see this coming?" you may ask.

Not most of them. Too many neat toys in the sandbox. Their track record at "seeing them coming" isn't too great.

"Aah, but there is work on a new architecture! The NSF (National Science Foundation) has this big program, right?" you may say.

Well, there is a big program. But new? That is another question. The NSF is Round 2.  Several years ago, DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funded the big names in the field on a research project to come up with a NewArch. They came up dry.

So now the NSF is trying. But don't hold your breath. After reading some of the proposals, it looks to me like they are all drinking the same Kool-Aid - and it looks an awful lot like the old Kool-Aid. 

"Sounds like a dead-end. So what are we to do?" you may wonder.

John Day has been involved in parallel processing, operating system development and advanced computer networking research since 1970 when he was involved in the design of protocols for ARPANET and its successor, the Internet. He managed the development of the OSI Reference Model, Naming and Addressing and upper-layer architecture.Since 1984, he has pioneered the development of network management architectures, as well as several related products and protocols at every layer. A recognized historian, Day has also published on the history of China. Most recently, he has contributed to the 2007 Smithsonian Institution exhibit, Encompassing the Globe. Day is the author of ÔÇ£Patterns in Network Architecture: A Return to FundamentalsÔÇØ. He can be reached at day@pnabook.com.

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