TR: Either way, this is a massive undertaking on a very entrenched infrastructure. How hard will it be, socially or politically, to get this off the ground in the United States?
LP: I think we will be able to tell a compelling story: about the need to re-conceptualize the Internet as being of national importance. The question is whether the Computer Science research community can (at least partially) set aside its traditional competitive mode of operation to reach consensus on how the best ideas can be synthesized into a coherent and comprehensive network architecture.
TR: Given the international scrap over just the issue of domain naming [see “Net Compromise in Tunis”], how can you get this implemented outside the United States?
LP: We need to have international participation from the outset. There are already GENI-like activities beginning elsewhere, such as in the European Union, Japan, and China. We just need to make sure the United States is one of the countries in the game.
TR: What key new functions or features do you think are needed?
LP: Of course security will be important, but I expect the way in which users identify resources – Web URLs, domain names, host addresses – will be central. This is because the way users identify resources influences everything from enabling mobility, to delaying the selection of the best resource for a given client, to adding flexibility to how routes are selected, to controlling what resources are private and what resources are publicly accessible.
TR: Which parts of this have already been amply demonstrated through efforts like PlanetLab?
LP: Many of the services running on PlanetLab make the Internet behave in a more robust or flexible way. Content distribution networks redirect Web requests to nearby cached copies, both improving the response time a user sees and making the system more robust when there is significant demand for certain content. New addressing schemes add a level of indirection to point-to-point communications, thereby providing a means to multicast data to multiple recipients or implement firewall-like protection. Other services are able to detect anomalous network behavior (e.g., worms, route failures), and still others give users alternative paths through the Internet. These are all services are able to run as overlays on top of today’s Internet.