Cerf Foresees Interplanetary Internet

The "Father of the Internet" expects to see a WAN rolled out as early as 2008 that will link us to deep space and support NASA missions to Mars.

Talk about your wide area networks.

The one that Internet guru Vint Cerf expects to see rolled out as early as 2008 will link us to deep space and support NASA missions to Mars. But if the Interplanetary Internet doesnt do much for you in terms of making your own corporate networks run more effectively, Cerf has a few pointers that are a little more down-to-Earth.

The "Father of the Internet," who participates in the Presidents Task Force on Internet Security, warned that most security risks reside at the edge of the network. WAN and LAN operators run a high risk of "self-inflicted" wounds because wrongly configured networks can be left uncorrected indefinitely. "Because it is hard to detect a misconfiguration, it is the area of most concern," Cerf said earlier this week at a forum sponsored by networking organization TelecomHub and Winward Consulting Group of Herndon, Va.

Cerf, who is also senior vice president for Internet Architecture at WorldCom Group, urged network managers to concentrate on risk detection and response because attack prevention is not always possible. "You should not imagine that technology is the best way to button everything up," he said. "Theres a whole bunch of cooperation that has to happen."

In predicting the future direction of e-commerce, Cerf said he fully expects the Internet to rapidly take over as the heart of the telecommunications infrastructure. "I think the term Internet telephony will sound very peculiar to us in a couple years," he said, noting that the term "horseless carriage" once seemed like a sensible way to refer to cars. Also, Internet-enabled devices will rapidly proliferate, he predicted, including 1 billion Internet-enabled mobile telephone by 2006.

If planning for Internet-enabled appliances and securing your own network seem daunting, there is always the NASA Jet Propulsion Labs Interplanetary Communications Project to provide perspective. Cerf is serious about it: "Maybe as early as 2008 or 2010, we will have a number of satellites around Mars, and well effectively have a two-planet Internet," he said.