The Internet: is it Time to Start Over? - Clean Slate Projects
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You may have heard of Internet2 and National LambdaRail (NLR). These focus on the need for speed, though Internet2 also concerns itself with the development of middleware and security. NLR is designed to support a number of distinct networks for the U.S. research community, all using the same core infrastructure; the different networks exist side by side, but are physically and operationally separate. This is similar to how other clean slate projects work. I only have room to discuss a few, but there are many more.
The National Science Foundation’s clean slate project is named the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI. GENI could be up and running in seven years, and is expected to have a ten-year lifespan. The overview of the GENI architecture runs to 45 pages in PDF, and very carefully “does not prescribe a particular deployment of links, nodes, subnets and so on…” (emphasis in original). The whole point of GENI is to let researchers experiment with different networking and distributed systems. It is hoped that whatever is learned from this research can be folded into the regular Internet to help make it stronger, more flexible, and more able to cope with future challenges.
Princeton’s PlanetLab “currently consists of 777 nodes at 378 sites.” Princeton hopes to grow that number to 1,000 nodes. PlanetLab functions as a testbed for overlay networks. Research groups request a slice of the PlanetLab network to experiment with file sharing, network embedded storage, content distribution networks, and other services. Over 600 active research projects are currently running on PlanetLab.
Carnegie Mellon’s 100 x 100 Clean Slate Project takes as its goal a network that provides universal access to 100 million homes. It targets a speed of 100 Mbps, hence the 100 x 100 name. The question at the core of the project is “Given the benefit of hindsight and our current understanding of network requirements and technologies, if we were not bound by existing design decisions and would be able to design the network from first principles (a clean slate design), how should we do it?”
Stanford has its own Clean Slate Design for the Internet. It’s an interdisciplinary research program, with what appear to be four projects currently active. The Clean Slate Program accepts new proposals about once every six months. Companies supporting Stanford’s Clean Slate Program include NEC, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, and DoCoMo Capital.
The Internet has changed substantially in 38 years, and continues to change at an accelerating rate. These projects will hopefully help us guide its future development into a useful shape. They may not solve all of our problems, but perhaps they will give us ways to strengthen it where it is weak and provide a better experience to everyone who uses the Internet.
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