When Clark talks about creating a new architecture, he says the job must start with the setting of goals. First, give the medium a basic security architecture – the ability to authenticate whom you are communicating with and prevent things like spam and viruses from ever reaching your PC. Better security is “the most important motivation for this redesign,” Clark says. Second, make the new architecture practical by devising protocols that allow Internet service providers to better route traffic and collaborate to offer advanced services without compromising their businesses. Third, allow future computing devices of any size to connect to the Internet – not just PCs but sensors and embedded processors. Fourth, add technology that makes the network easier to manage and more resilient. For example, a new design should allow all pieces of the network to detect and report emerging problems – whether technical breakdowns, traffic jams, or replicating worms – to network administrators.
The good news is that some of these goals are not so far off. NSF has, over the past few years, spent more than $30 million supporting and planning such research. Academic and corporate research labs have generated a number of promising technologies: ways to authenticate who’s online; ways to identify criminals while protecting the privacy of others; ways to add wireless devices and sensors. While nobody is saying that any single one of these technologies will be included in a new architecture, they provide a starting point for understanding what a “new” Internet might actually look like and how it would differ from the old one.
Some promising technologies that might figure into this new architecture are coming from PlanetLab, which Princeton’s Peterson has been nurturing in recent years (see “The Internet Reborn,” October 2003). In this still-growing project, researchers throughout the world have been developing software that can be grafted onto today’s dumb Internet routers. One example is software that “sniffs” passing Internet traffic for worms. The software looks for telltale packets sent out by worm-infected machines searching for new hosts and can warn system administrators of infections. Other software prototypes detect the emergence of data traffic jams and come up with more efficient ways to reroute traffic around them. These kinds of algorithms could become part of a fundamental new infrastructure, Peterson says.