Flaws in the basic building blocks of networking and computer science are hampering reliability, limiting flexibility and creating security vulnerabilities, program managers said this week at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencys DARPATech conference.
Among the IT holy grails that DARPA wants to see revamped are the Internet Protocol, the seven-layer Open Systems Interconnection modelwhich defines how devices communicate on todays networksand the von Neumann architecture, the basic design style underpinning almost all computers built today.
Many military commanders have been slow to adapt IT for critical tasks because they sense the equipment is unreliable, said Col. Tim Gibson. He is a program manager for DARPAs Advanced Technology Office, which is leading efforts to radically redefine computer architecture.
You go to Wal-Mart and buy a telephone for less than $10 and you expect it to work, Gibson said. Yet people usually do not expect the same of their computers. We dont expect computers to work, we expect them to have a problem.
If a commander expects a system to have a problem, then how could they rely upon it? Gibson said.
There’s an aspect of this that could be worrisome. DARPA Director Tony Tether told CRA’s Computing Leadership Summit last month that the Department of Defense increasingly sees the Internet and computer networks in general as critical to its network-centric strategy of warfare. As a result, they are, with increasing frequency, moving their information security and assurance research into the “black” or classified world. They believe that any information about DOD’s capability — offensive or defensive — in network warfare is a threat to national security. It will be interesting to see how their focus on new paradigms for the “building blocks” of computing will exist in this new, more classified environment.