Nortel Networks aims to fix "broken" Internet

Nortel Networks sees itself as having a major role in improving the Internet to facilitate e-commerce, so that businesses can offer a seamless, efficient customer experience. Looking ahead to the new millennium, the company hopes the Internet will eventually enjoy the same reliability as current telephony services.

The Internet is going to see some dramatic changes. It has got a long way to go. If I had to describe the Internet today, I'd say it's really broken. It's slow, unreliable, and some companies have good reason to doubt it, what we have to do is fix it. We're leading in what is known as the optical Internet. This is all about making the 'Net more reliable and faster. Once we do that, there are all sorts of pieces you need to fix around it," said Alan Pettigrew, director of product marketing for Nortel in the South Asia-Pacific region.

"One fix is the ability to get cable running into homes and offices to supply multimedia services. The wireless Internet needs to evolve so people have mobility, and once we have created the customer access then we increase the load going back into your intranet, so we therefore need to improve the ability to access server farms and security," he added.

The company believes that e-business offers enterprises the opportunity to break out of "bricks and mortar" and leverage the power of the Internet for a competitive advantage - with increased efficiency, enhanced customer service, and simplified global reach. It says it is helping its customers and partners to change the way the world does business through its telephony and data product lines.

"There are going to be a lot of things emerging in e-commerce. We're putting together both enterprise networks and the 'new Internet', which is going to support e-commerce," Pettigrew added.

"The Internet is actually based on the telephone network, and over that you have a routing layer where users access the Internet. If you look at the telephony layer, it's 99.99 percent reliable. How often does your phone system go down? If you look at the routing layer, all of a sudden the reliability and speed drop off dramatically. What we need to do is actually upgrade both layers and destratify, so therefore what we are building is an optical Internet which has the components of what is currently the telephony switching network with the routing capabilities built into it, and it's all done with fibre optics."

Pettigrew explained that quality of service (QoS) would be handled over the Internet through differentiated services, which are currently being handled by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

"It is really a 'best effort' QoS, so it will still be up to the ISPs and carriers to ensure you get enough bandwidth between two points, and so you must provision correctly, but this will make sure that you can prioritise, so it's a prioritisation scheme. What will govern whether ISPs and carriers have enough bandwidth is market forces, because if an ISP can charge extra to guarantee bandwidth or certain latencies, then obviously it is going to pay them to actually make sure they provision accordingly. So it is a market-driven capability," he said.

"The whole idea of the new Internet will be access anytime, anyhow, anywhere, so you won't limited to any one technology. Whatever technology suits the customer will be the right technology.

"What needs to happen is the consumerisation of the Web. To back this up, we recently announced that we would open up our routing code as an open piece of code. We're licensing it, we've also done a deal with Intel, which is going to take our routing code and put it on a chip.

"The significance of this is that if I'm a microwave oven builder or a refrigerator builder, I can buy a chip off the shelf from Intel, put it into a device and all of sudden it becomes Web-enabled. One of things out of this is that it's has commodotised the traditional router, and to back that up we've actually reduced prices on our routers dramatically to back up what we're saying. Routing is alive and well and must happen, but routers are increasingly becoming commodity items," Pettigrew said.

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