Back to Basics

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


Well, not everyone suffers from groupthink. For a glimpse of what the new architecture can and should be, read my book "Patterns in Network Architecture."  I've been thinking about this problem for 40 years. I was working on it in the ARPANET, Internet and OSI (where I was in charge of the infamous seven layer model). 

"Aah, so he is bringing OSI back, eh?" you may be asking yourself.

Hardly. Instead I go back to the very basics to see what the problem is really doing.  For example, I found that the much-touted dumb network is a delusion. What they have been calling minimal was in fact maximal. 

I found, for example, that OSI's upper 3 layers never existed and that the Internet has only half an architecture. In reality, networking is IPC (Inter-Process Communication) and only IPC - of a single layer consisting of two protocols (that exist and are well-understood but ignored by the Internet) that repeats. This isn't just some engineering bright idea. Rather, this comes from looking at principles first. Ultimately, this is what we need to be moving to.

The result is a simpler implementation and an architecture that scales indefinitely (in which multi-homing and mobility are inherent in the structure, rather than expensive workarounds that don't scale). It reduces equipment and operating costs by orders of magnitude. It is inherently more secure (i.e., many common Internet attacks are simply not possible and others are controllable). In other words, a complexity collapse. 

It also seems to create a much more competitive marketplace that spurs innovation in telecom, rather than leading to the current stagnation. It opens new possibilities for providers, vendors and enterprises. 

"Wow, so it would."

Right! So you can consider another patch like IPv6 and improve your "Internet spirit." Or you can consider a solution like "Patterns in Network Architecture" and make improvements to your bottom line.  Hmm.

"But we can't change the Internet! It is too big!" you may say.

First of all, that argument holds up only if you believe the Internet is near the end of its growth. Frankly, I think we have only just begun. It would have been nice if the Internet had had the vision of the early developers. It would have been nice had these problems been solved 30 years ago when we first uncovered them. But we just don't have that luxury.

Second, the Internet is smaller now than the phone network was back when the Internet first started - and they didn't let that bother them.

Third, why change it? Let the old Internet be the old Internet. Do new things the new way. Only change old stuff if there is a good business reason to change. There is no need for transition - only adoption. To quote John Lennon, just "Let It Be."

 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, Day has pioneered the development of network management architectures, as well as several related products and protocols at every layer. A recognized historian, he 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 "Patterns in Network Architecture: A Return to Fundamentals." He can be reached at day@pnabook.com.

 



 
 
 
 
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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