Internet Requires Better Architecture to Grow

The Internet is in need of an architecture that handles more addresses, increased reliability and quality of service (QoS) standards that Internet service providers can agree on, according to a report about to be released by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

"The Internet's Coming of Age" will be published by the Academy Research Council by the end of the year, said study director Jon Eisenberg. The report was commissioned by the federal government's National Science Foundation and conducted by a special committee of industry and academic information technology experts, Eisenberg said.

One area that captured the committee's interest, according to Eisenberg, was the need for the Internet industry to embrace and implement Version 6 of standard IP (IPv6). Although the Internet Engineering Task Force has approved IPv6, the protocol set has yet to be implemented.

Eisenberg said IPv6 removes the limitations of Version 4, which can support only 4.3 billion unique addresses.

No one is sure when the number of connected machines will exceed the current protocol's capabilities, he said. But the study committee members said infrastructure equipment makers and service providers should implement the later version of the protocol.

IPv6 permits a virtually unlimited number of addresses. A low-end estimate, according to one official, is nearly 1,600 addresses for each square meter of the surface of the earth.

There was strong consensus among committee members for making the Internet more reliable and secure.

"A number of technologies have been developed to . . . detect and prevent intrusion, and authenticate transactions," the study states. But implementation has lagged the availability of technologies.

The study suggests that it's time for IT managers to implement technologies that are available today.

The report describes QoS over the Internet as a "weak-link phenomenon." End-to-end QoS requires service providers to agree on standards for "signaling, semantics of traffic classification and what priorities should be assigned to different categories of Internet traffic," the report states.

The printed version of the report will cost $25, Eisenberg said. The online version can be found at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9823.html.

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