Expect a faster and richer Internet experience in the next few years, but be prepared as well to face a rapidly changing business environment. Foremost researchers from Bell Laboratories, the multi-awarded research and development arm of Lucent Technologies, harped upon this theme during a technology seminar last month in Manila.
In her presentation, Joann Ordille, a member of the technical staff of Bell Labs' systems and software research center, said the Internet of the future will feature faster bandwidth, richer applications and better technologies.
FIVE AREAS OF CHANGE
Improvements in the Internet will essentially come in five areas, she said. These are clients, access technologies, servers, switches and routers, and backbone transport.
In the area of access, there will be faster speed access technologies such as xDSL on wire loop, cable modems, fiber and wireless. "In all likelihood, there will be no clear winner. Some technologies are appropriate in some areas, so these will co- exist," said Ordille.
Residential gateways will also emerge, she added, that will serve to interconnect in-home networks and access methods. Using just one access technology, the residential gateway, for example, will interconnect access devices like telephone, television and the PC, and determine the appropriate service for each device.
In the backbone of the network, switching will be done at the core and faster routers will be implemented at the edge or the users' side. Internet protocol and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technologies are likely to merge, driven by the need to incorporate quality of service (QoS) in the network to enable applications like voice over IP.
"Traditional IP networks provide only best effort delivery. This is not enough to support voice and video over the Internet," she said.
Ordille also said that routers need to be improved since the Internet traffic growth has exceeded existing router capabilities. A shift from software-based routing to hardware- based packet routing is likely to happen, even a merger of switch and router technologies, she said. From a voice-centric network, faster growth is now coming from data traffic, she said. Applications such as Internet telephony, Internet fax and Internet call centers are also expected to surge.
Also coming up are Internet metadirectories and enhanced security services. In the future, it will be possible to set multiple policies on a single firewall, as well as a single policy on multiple firewalls. Security zones within a company will also emerge and virtual private networks should be mostly based on IPSec, an Internet security standard, said Ordille.
As the network changes rapidly, companies must also be flexible so they can grow with the network, said Dr. On-Ching Yue, technical manager of Bell Labs' advanced technologies division.
Technology has been so "disruptive" and markets have become so "convulsive", Yue said, that careful technology and business planning are critical to success in the Internet age.
"There's a network revolution going on. It's more than just faster routers, but there is a vision of building a network of networks that will deliver future services seamlessly and reliably," he said. For companies to be able to compete, they must find ways to reduce network costs, generate more revenues by adding more services quickly and future-proof their networks by making the network architecture scalable and flexible, he added.
New markets and new competition will emerge, as technologies also change. Optical and wireless technologies will become cheaper and pave the way for faster network bandwidth and more services. These must be considered in planning and deployment, as well as changing user demands, business structures and new business models, Yue stressed.