NSF proposes next-generation Internet

The National Science Foundation floats a proposal for the next-generation Internet.

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has proposed a next-generation Internet with built-in security and functionality that connects all kinds of devices, with researchers challenging the government agency to look at the Internet as a "clean slate."

The NSF's Global Environment for Networking Investigations, or GENI, initiative would include a research grant program and an experimental facility to test new Internet technologies, but the project was not yet funded, NSF spokesman, Richard Vines, said. "It's an idea under consideration," he said.

Researchers needed to start thinking beyond the current Internet and consider radical new ideas for continuing challenges such as Internet security and ease of use, a senior research scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Clark, said.

"I'm not at all picking on the Internet - the Internet does what it does well," he said.But there are some things where you say, 'that doesn't work right'," Clark has received an NSF grant to advise the agency on the GENI project.

NSF officials announced the GENI project last week at a conference for the Special Interest Group on Data Communications in Philadelphia. The group's members are interested in the systems engineering and architectural questions of communication.

As Clark envisions it, the GENI project would go beyond current efforts to incrementally improve the Internet. The US Department of Defense has been pushing for adoption of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) to replace the widely used IPv4, but the GENI project would go years beyond the current vision for IPv6, said Clark, a long-time Internet security researcher who served as chief protocol architect for the US government's Internet development efforts during the 1980s.

Clark hoped the GENI project would envision the Internet society's needs 15 years or more from now. "I'm worried about the framing of the question so that we don't think so incrementally," he said. "I've had some people come in and say, 'Can we rethink the use of packets?'"

Vines recently called the project a very, very preliminary proposal.

"As I understand it, this could be years in the making," he said. "There isn't a budget request for it or anything yet. [The NSF is] just trying to get community involvement in the idea so far."

The NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering would encourage the involvement of other government agencies, private companies and other nations, according to a GENI information page on the NSF website.

Among the goals of the GENI Initiative would be new core functionality for the Internet, including new naming, addressing and identity architectures; enhanced capabilities, including additional security architecture, and designing for high availability; and new Internet services and applications.

The GENI project would "explore new networking capabilities that will advance science and stimulate innovation and economic growth", according to the NSF's GENI Web page. "The GENI Initiative responds to an urgent and important challenge of the 21st Century to advance significantly the capabilities provided by networking and distributed system architectures."

The GENI project is described at http://www.nsf.gov/cise/geni/.

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