TR: Which parts are farther back in the pipeline and when will they be ready?
LP: While there is a lot of research on wireless networks, much of that work is focused on isolated wireless sub-networks. The missing piece seems to be how we create a seamless global network that includes both wired and wireless components, thereby supporting mobility on a world-wide scale. Likewise, understanding how to exploit multiple independent sensor networks on a global basis – to do things like tracking product distribution or creating traffic reports – still needs attention. This “global perspective” is still a ways out, but the prospect of GENI is causing the wired and wireless communities to pay more attention to the broader architectural issues.
TR: Assuming that a good new architecture can be crafted and demonstrated, what’s a possible deployment scenario? Would the federal government be the first adopter?
LP: Government-funded use by large research projects – “big science” – is one scenario; but to realize widespread adoption will require that the research community demonstrate value to a much broader user base. Doing so potentially leads to “service-oriented” ISPs that do some of these value-added things. Perhaps these new ISPs exist side-by-side with today’s Internet, or perhaps they become the “lens” through which ordinary users interact with the Internet. We tend to speculate about how deployment will actually play out, but our goal is simply to lower the barrier-to-entry for innovators to deploy, and for users to adopt new capabilities.
TR: As we understand it, today’s basic Internet protocol, called TCP/IP, began on a certain date. Would we need to do that here – launch a new architecture on a specific date?
LP: I don’t think this scenario is at all likely. The challenge for the research community is to find ways to support incremental adoption of whatever new ideas we develop. This requires a way for users to opt-in on a per-user, per-application basis. In the end, user demand will drive deployment.