The IPSphere Forum—which includes equipment suppliers, service providers, application vendors and software companies—is creating the technical underpinnings to allow end-user applications to automatically request the level of security, quality of service and bandwidth they need from their network provider and have that delivered across the Internet.
"The charter of the organization is to work on an agreed commercial framework that embraces todays Internet but extends business models beyond whats possible in todays Internet," said Kevin Dillon, president and chair of the IPSphere Forum and vice president, Technology Office of Juniper Networks, in Melbourne, Australia.
Todays Internet is an ad hoc, cooperative collection of separate and independent IP networks operated by different carriers, said Tom Nolle, president of Cimi, a Voorhees, N.J., consulting company.
"Its one of several applications of IP technology, but we tend to think everything thats built with IP technology is the Internet, and thats not true," Nolle said. "There are many IP networks, and thats always been the case."
While its possible today for carriers or network providers to offer premium services such as high-performance VPNs within their own IP networks using MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), allowing that traffic to cross network boundaries is awkward.
Just to create a DSL service today requires the cooperation of many providers that need to partner to deliver that service. "There are commercial agreements, but thats not very flexible, and it doesnt translate to a different type of service, and those practices cant be reused," Dillon said.
The IPSphere Forum envisions a public network that combines the reach of the Internet with the guaranteed performance and security of a private network through a series of interconnected IPSpheres.
The IPSpheres would be capable of providing dynamic assurances of the requested performance and security levels of the application. Key to that is the IPSphere Forums work on a technical specification that will provide for the commercial framework. The specification, built on an SOA (service-oriented architecture), will enable providers to publish service offers, content, transport technology and the commercial parameters around which the offer is made, Dillon said.
But the specification, which will go through multiple versions before it is mature, wont be complete until early 2007. The next hurdle will be integrating back-end billing systems. Dillon wouldnt speculate on how long that effort could take, although he said it could vary widely from one service provider to another.