Time Magazine has a pretty decent piece on NSF’s Global Environment for Networking Innovations program, which has the goal of “[enabling] the research community to invent and demonstrate a global communications network and related services that will be qualitatively better than today’s Internet.”
Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the Internet, some university researchers with the federal government’s blessing want to scrap all that and start over.
The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a “clean slate” approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on Sept. 2, 1969.
The Internet “works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions,” said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. “It’s sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today.”
No longer constrained by slow connections and computer processors and high costs for storage, researchers say the time has come to rethink the Internet’s underlying architecture, a move that could mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers to better channel future traffic over the existing pipes.
Even Vinton Cerf, one of the Internet’s founding fathers as co-developer of the key communications techniques, said the exercise was “generally healthy” because the current technology “does not satisfy all needs.”
We’ve covered the progress of GENI previously in this space, including the most recent announcement by the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) of the naming of the initial members of the GENI science council. As it stands now, GENI is a “Horizon” project in NSF’s 2007 Facilities Plan — a step away from “Readiness Stage,” which would allow for extensive pre-construction planning. There are currently 10 projects listed in the plan as “Horizon” projects, and just one in the “Readiness Stage” for FY 2008 (the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope). For FY 2008, NSF has requested $20 million to ramp up GENI pre-construction planning — so the program is moving forward, but still has some distance to go before it’s ready to be included in the queue of projects being considered for the “Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction” account in future budget years.