It’s a scheme that Mazieres says wouldn’t work on the public Internet but could offer improvements for private networks. Ethane could still benefit networks, however: isolating viruses on corporate networks would ultimately slow their spread on the Internet at large.
Another Clean Slate team is working on a proposal to overhaul the wireless spectrum so that wireless devices can find pockets of unused spectrum and make use of them. Still another team is looking at replacing important routers, which make up the backbone of the Internet, with optical switches. Such switches could save power and increase network capacity.
These projects got under way in September, but there are still years of work ahead and many projects to come. Wednesday’s presentation will be the first time the public is invited to participate in the Clean Slate discussion. McKeown says he’s looking forward to input from the broader community, including the corporate sector.
A growing number of researchers are acknowledging that the Internet is fundamentally flawed and needs an overhaul. The Stanford program is just one of a number of initiatives to fix the Internet. (See “The Internet Is Broken.”)
Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com, believes that there needs to be a way to ensure dedicated bandwidth. “The Internet was designed to get teletype characters echoed across the U.S. in under a half second,” Metcalfe wrote in an e-mail interview. “Soon we’ll have to handle [high-definition] video conversations around the world. The Internet must now allow bandwidth reservation, not just priority, to carry realtime, high-bandwidth communication–video in its many forms including video telephone.”
Metcalfe thinks the Clean Slate project is a great idea but believes that significant challenges lie ahead. “When you’re dealing with infrastructure, in reality, off the Stanford campus … nobody gets a clean slate,” Metcalfe says. “After the brainstorming, the project will have to work on migrations, transitions, compromises, and clever hacks to get the Internet moving gradually toward their ideals.”