Success Disaster – shaping the next Internet

I’m not a network person in fact I can hardly get two devices to share files – yet I found this 18 month old talk by Van Jacobson incredibly compelling and though provoking.

What Mr. Jacobson does is make an arcane subject – Network Typology both easily understood and relevant.

What becomes clear is that network architecture is shaped by initial business or conceptual issues and then shapes the business opportunities that are built upon it.

From the circuit switched phone network – with an initial problem of how to describe a wiring path between two devices we get a network that is concerned with mapping paths without concern for the conversation (data), and a fetish for reliability of every component in the circuit (because any failure could break the connection) at the expense of call set-up time. 

The IP network takes an entirely different approach. It breaks up information into small packets and lets intelligent points decide each step to the destination. The result is a network that gains its reliability through system growth not device reliability. Embedded in that protocol are a series of choices however that are contributing to many of the problems we face today – from limitations for pervasive connection, net neutrality and authentication and spam.

The solutions to these problems have implications for everything from IP to social media and broadcast industries.  As network engineers start to tackle the cracks that are showing in the IP network they will make decisions that will impact business models far removed from the networks core.

This talk gives some interesting and easy to understand insights as to the problems and solutions that network designers face and for that it’s worth the hour and half. You may, like me, come away with the conclusion that these are more that technical issues – they will shape how the Internet changes as it moves into every corner of the earth and our lives.