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Scrap Internet, begin anew: researchers

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The basic structure of Internet is set for an overhaul.
The basic structure of Internet is set for an overhaul.

NEW YORK: Although it has already taken nearly 40 years to get this far in building the Internet, some university researchers with the U.S. Government's blessing want to scrap all that and start anew.

The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a ``clean slate'' approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA Professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on September 2, 1969.

The Internet ``works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions,'' said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. ``It's sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today.''

No longer constrained by slow connections and computer processors and high costs for storage, researchers say the time has come to rethink the Internet's underlying architecture, a move that could mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers to better channel future traffic over the existing pipes.

The National Science Foundation wants to build an experimental research network known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI), and is funding several projects at universities and elsewhere through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND.

Rutgers, Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the universities pursuing individual projects. Other Government agencies, including the Defence Department, have also been exploring the concept.

The European Union has also backed research on such initiatives, through a programme known as Future Internet Research and Experimentation, or FIRE. Government officials and researchers met last month in Zurich to discuss early findings and goals.

A new network could run parallel with the current Internet and eventually replace it, or perhaps aspects of the research could go into a major overhaul of the existing architecture.

These clean-slate efforts are still in their early stages, though, and are not expected to bear fruit for another 10 or 15 years.

The Internet's early architects built the system on the principle of trust. Researchers largely knew one another, so they kept the shared network open and flexible qualities that proved key to its rapid growth.

But spammers and hackers arrived as the network expanded and could roam freely because the Internet doesn't have built-in mechanisms for knowing with certainty who sent what. AP


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