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  1. 1. A personal perspective on the evolving Internet and Research and Education Networks Latest Version February 15, 2010 --Draft—Draft—Draft- For discussion purposes only Abstract Over the past few years the Internet has evolved from an “end-to-end” telecommunications service to a distributed computing information and content infrastructure. In the academic community this evolving infrastructure is often referred to as cyber-infrastructure or eInfrastructure .This evolution in the Internet was predicted by Van Jacobson several years ago and now seems readily evident by recent studies such as the Arbor report indicating that the bulk of Internet traffic is carried over this type of infrastructure as opposed to a general purpose routed Internet/optical network. This evolving Internet is likely to have profound impacts on Internet architectures and business models in the both the academic and commercial worlds. Increasingly traffic will be “local” with connectivity to the nearest cloud, content distribution network and or social network gateway at a local Internet Exchange (IX) point. Network topology and architecture will increasingly be driven by the needs of the applications and content rather than as general purpose infrastructure connecting users and devices. As a consequence the need to deploy to IPv6 addressing or ID/loc split may be superseded by DNS-type such as laye r 7 XML routing. This new Internet will more easily allow the deployment of low carbon infrastructure and create new challenges and opportunities in terms of last mile ownership and network neutrality. Customer owned networks and tools like User Controlled LightPath (UCLP) and Reverse Passive Optical Networks (RPON) may become more relevant in order to allow users to connect directly to the distributed content and application infrastructure at a nearby IX. Research and Education (R&E) networks may play a critical leadership role in developing new Internet business strategies for zero carbon mobile Internet solutions interconnecting next generation multi-channel RF mobile devices to this infrastructure using “white space” and Wifi spectrum. Perhaps ultimately these developments will lay the foundation for a National Public Internet (NPI) where R&E networks deploy transit and/or internet exchanges in smaller communities and cities to support distribution of content and information from not for profit organizations to the general public. Executive Summary The Internet appears to be once again is enabling another major wave of innovation. Although compared to past transformative changes in the Internet such as the invention of the web or packet switching this new wave to date has received very little public notice or attention. This lack of awareness is surprising given that investment by private sector companies and government in this transformative technology now rivals what the carriers are investing in traditional backbone and last mile Internet technology.
  2. 2. This evolution of the Internet was predicted several years ago by an Internet pioneer Dr Van Jacobson [VAN JACOBSON] where he argued that network engineers and researchers are in danger of being stuck with a tunnel vision of the need for an ”end-to-end” network much like a previous generation of engineers and researchers were trapped in thinking that all networks had to be connection oriented. Dr Van Jacobson’s predictions have recently been vindicated by data from the Arbor [ARBOR] study showing that over 50% of data on the Internet now comes from mostly content and application providers using distributed computing and storage infrastructure independent of the traditional carrier Internet backbones. Note that end-to-end network should not be confused with the end-to-end principle established by MIT researchers Reed and Clark where that, whenever possible, communication control operations should be defined to occur at the end-points of the Internet or as close as possible to the resource being controlled. Up to most recently the text book model of the Internet was for businesses and consumers to access the internet through a last mile provider such as telephone or cable company. Their traffic would be sent across the backbone to its destination by an Internet service provider. This model worked reasonably well in the early days of the Internet but as new multimedia content such as video and network applications evolved the current model failed to provide a satisfactory quality of experience for users in terms of responsiveness and speed. As a result a host of content, application and hosting companies invested in something for the purposes of this paper I have collectively labeled as a Application Content Infrastructure (ACI) that complemented and expanded the original Internet through the integration of computing, storage and network links. In the academic world these developments have been underway for some time and the resulting infrastructure is often referred to cyber-infrastructure or eInfrastructure. As in the commercial world it is creating profound changes in how we think about networking as a generalized end-to- end telecommunications service connecting users or institutions to a facility that is seamlessly integrated with distributed computing and storage delivering specific applications or data solutions for targeted communities. Examples include Optiuter, Teragrid, LHCnet, etc These investments by ACIs are quite distinct from that made by the networks that transport traffic across the Internet, even though both they use many of the same technologies such as optical networks, routers, etc. Rather, ACIs are integrated networks and other associated infrastructure used by application and content providers used to host, cache and distribute their services. Fundamentally ACIs are about the transport of content and applications rather than bits. Examples of ACIs include large distributed caching networks such as Akamai, cloud service providers such as Amazon and Azure, Application Service Providers (ASPs) like Google and Apple, Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) such as Limelight and Hulu, and social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. Many Fortune 500 companies like banks and airlines have also deployed their own ACIs as an adjunct to their own private wide area networks in order to provide secure and timely service to their customers. Most major content and application organizations have contracted with commercial ACIs or have deployed their own infrastructure. ACIs also allows the content provider to load balance demand, so that traffic in regions expressing excessive loads can be re-directed to nodes where there is spare capacity. The end result is that with very little fanfare the Internet has been transformed so much so over the past decade that virtually all major content and every advanced application on the Internet is now delivered over an ACI independent of the traditional carrier Internet backbones. This enormous investment in ACIs have resulted in major benefits not only for the content and hosting companies but also have significantly improved Internet performance as perceived by the
  3. 3. end user. In many ways they have also relieved the major carriers from having to make major investments in their own backbone and last mile infrastructure. These benefits and market drivers for the development of ACIs can be briefly summarized as follows: (a) They provide for faster and more responsive Internet experience for users as they allow a organization’s content and services to be largely delivered locally over the ACI rather than over a long distance end-to-end network with all the attendant issues of latency, congestion and packet loss; (b) They can deliver their data and services much cheaper than across traditional Internet because reliability and redundancy can be achieved in many different ways through distributed computing and storage at the application layer rather than the network layer; and (c) They enable new Internet business model where revenue is not related to the number of bits a user downloads but linked to the specific application such as advertising, product purchase and eventually such things as energy savings and carbon offsets. There is growing evidence that ACIs now constitute one of the fastest growing parts of the overall Internet eco-system and represents a substantial, if not the largest, portion of the investment by companies in the Internet itself. In some cases their investment in Internet infrastructure equal or outweigh those of the carriers and ACIs now girdle the globe and rival the carrier’s infrastructure in terms of scale and complexity. This major growth in ACIs is also supported by recent study done from Arbor Networks that demonstrated that the majority of Internet traffic is now being generated by ACIs directly at major peering points. This traffic from ACIs is continued to expect to grow significantly faster over time versus than traditional Internet traffic and will largely dominate traffic patterns and network architecture in the coming decades. Some people mistakenly think ACI provide a "privileged" access channel for major content and application companies. In fact the just the opposite has happened. Many companies now specialize in providing third party ACI services which results in greater competition and reduced costs. Content and application providers now have much greater number of choices in how they want to deliver their product and service to the end consumer. As a result ACI also helps lower the barriers for small companies and start-ups as well, enabling them to grow and compete. It is near-impossible for small providers to quickly deploy and maintain additional servers during a wave of sudden popularity; at the same time, over- provisioning and maintaining infrastructure up-front can be very costly. ACI helps solve this dilemma - small companies can work with third-party ACI providers, and "scale" up their services efficiently and cost-effectively. It is not only small businesses but also academic research and education projects that benefit from third party ACI facilities. A good example is the distribution of HDTV video from the ocean floor with project Neptune [NEPTUNE] and new Federal government services such as "" [GSA]. In both cases it would be cost prohibitive for a university or government department to deploy the thousands of servers and purchase Internet access to deliver these services. More importantly according to Internet 2 [INTERNET2] cost savings of up to 40% on Internet transit traffic are possible by connecting to ACIs at various Internet Exchange points.
  4. 4. The same ACI drivers of enhanced customer experience and low deployment cost have driven the market for clouds and ASPs. More importantly because of the low deployment cost of ACIs application and cloud providers can focus on business models where revenue is based on the service provided rather than charging by bit of data transferred across the network. This is a fundamental difference in the view of the world compared to end-to-end Internet carriers. Carriers come largely from a centuries old telephone view of the world where bandwidth was expensive and had to be carefully rationed by charging users by the minute or by the bit. But the advent of low cost, high bandwidth optical networks and new data architectures enabled by ACIs allows them to effectively ignore the cost of bandwidth and distance and instead focus on the value of the actual service in terms of functionality and ease of use. New promising business models demonstrate that revenue can be obtained from other value add services such as cloud computing and eCommerce solutions such as SalesForce. On the horizon other promising business models for ACIs can be made from energy reduction and the sale of carbon offsets. For example two recent papers from researchers at MIT [MIT] and Rutgers [RUTGERS] indicate that a ACI can save up to 35% and 45% respectively in energy costs by moving data and storage to sites in the network with the lowest instantaneous energy costs. Some organizations are also investigating how carbon offsets can be used to pay for the deployment of this type of ACI which in a small way address the challenges of climate change. ACIs in many ways are dis-intermediating many of the traditional end-to-end telecommunication services offered by carriers. As the ACI infrastructure reaches ever closer to the end user it may require new business models for the last and undoubtedly will result in renewed debates on network neutrality. This will be especially true as the mobile Internet develops with a corresponding infrastructure to deliver ACI to these devices. As ACI does not require an end-to – end wireless network, offering wireless data locally through WiFi or new “white space” spectrum may become the norm. Background When the Internet was first conceptualized and implemented in the 1970s and 1980s it was largely seen as an “end-to-end” network for data similar to the telephone voice network which was then the dominant form of networking. But instead of making telephone call connections it was used for the transmission of packets between connected computers. The telephone network by its very nature is an “end-to-end” network as it is necessary to setup connections between caller and receiver who may be separated by thousands of miles. The telephone companies invested billions of dollars building global networks to allow users to make calls to virtually any place on the planet where there was a telephone receiver. Although the Internet used a different network technology i.e packets rather than circuit connections, the network topology was much the same in that it was assumed users (or more specifically their computers) would want to communicate with other user’s computers and or servers which could be many thousands of miles away. For this reason it was easy to adapt the Internet as an overlay network over the existing telephone infrastructure as they both had to reach the same homes and businesses around the world.
  5. 5. The original Internet was made up of several different components and identified as “last mile”, “regional Internet Service Provider (ISP)”, Internet Exchanges (IXs) and “backbone ISPs” as illustrated in the following diagram: The link from the user’s home or residence is identified as the last mile and is usually provided by the local telephone or cable company. In some cases the last mile may be a wireless link or even use optical fiber. The last mile usually terminates at the regional ISP’s hub or aggregation point. In many cases these days the last mile provider is the one and the same as the regional ISP, but this is not necessarily the case in all jurisdictions. From the regional ISP’s hub or integration point the Internet traffic is carried by the regional ISP to a local or regional IX. IXs are located in just about every major city in North America. It is at the IX where the regional ISP exchanges traffic with one or more national backbone carrier ISPs. The backbone carrier ISPs carry the traffic to another IX elsewhere in the county or around the world where another regional ISP then carries the traffic across the destination last mile to the designated recipient. The big disadvantage of this original architecture is that all traffic from a content company or application must transit all these links and attendant probabilities of congestion and/or packet loss. Any “end-to-end” network whether it is the public Internet or telephone system has also an embedded liability as it is extremely expensive and technically challenging to build a reliable and robust end-to-end infrastructure of any kind. Each link and node in the network can be a single point of failure or congestion, of which the loss of any one can disrupt thousands of phone calls or Internet communication sessions. This poses a major engineering challenge and the solution is to have many redundant paths across the network with sophisticated routing and switching protocols to quickly re-route traffic in the advent of congestion or failure at any node or link. Application Content Infrastructure (ACIs) on the other hand are specialized infrastructure that provides advanced services to the global Internet community that are delivered locally. This avoids all the attendant problems of packet loss and congestion on the backbone network (and also in the last mile). Invariably ACIs connect to the public Internet at the IXs or at private peering points located in most cities. Their development was driven by several factors, but primarily it was to enhance the user’s Internet experience, especially when there is significant congestion and packet loss in the last mile networks. This new evolving model is shown in the following diagram.The important thing to note about ACIs is that their service is built around applications and content and not simply the transport of bits and packets across a network. The use of distributed computing and storage to support their advanced applications allows ACIs to keep content local. For example when a user connects to Facebook their traffic is carried over their last mile cable or telephone broadband connection to the closest public Internet Exchange point or private peering connection usually located in the same city. Their traffic is then handed off to the Facebook ACI where a copy of the user’s home page is stored. As a user updates or adds comments to their page their posting is distributed simultaneously to their Facebook’s friends homepages over the Facebook ACI. Other than the last mile connection virtually none of their communication on Facebook is carried over the public end-to-end Internet. More importantly as perceived by the user all Facebook communication effectively stays local, despite the fact that the user may Facebook friends scattered all over the world. ACIs are not the same as private IP networks, often referred to as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which are extensively used by Fortune 500 companies, governments and other large organizations
  6. 6. for internal traffic purposes. Some ACI networks are global in scale and rival the carrier public Internet networks in terms of size and complexity. Good examples of such large scale ACIs include Microsoft MSN’s network, Amazon’s EC2 cloud, Google’s Gmail and YouTube infrastructure as well as Level3’s Content Distribution Service. Many Fortune 500 companies like banks and airlines have also deployed their own ACIs as an adjunct to their own internal networks in order to provide secure and reliable service to their customers. It is important to note that ACIs constitute a lot more than just network links and routing nodes as is typical public carrier Internet network. A major, if not the largest component of most ACIs is the vast array of computing and storage devices that are located at various nodes throughout the ACI infrastructure. As well the network links and elements tend to be more tightly integrated into the ACI infrastructure of computing and storage infrastructure rather than being treated as an abstract and independent network service. This allows for more creative and systemic solutions in terms of reliability and load balancing. The other distinguishing feature between ACIs and the public Internet is the number and types of routes that advertised by either network. Generally because they operate at the application and service layer ACIs only advertise a very small set of the Internet routing table. Instead they depend on Domain Name Service (DNS) processes and content routing for the forwarding of traffic. The public Internet, on the other hand must carry the full routing table (over 400,000 routes) because its primary mandate is to provide end-to end service. As a result the routing infrastructure for a public Internet provider tends to much more complicated and expensive than that of ACIs. However ACIs generally have made a much larger investment in storage and computational resources in order to provide the services they offer. The growth of ACIs is expected to continue dominate the future Internet. Many organizations still operate legacy applications on their own servers such as e-mail, web hosting, etc. Increasingly, these organizations are moving these applications to ACIs as the costs of maintaining their own servers and applications continue to escalate. As well many organizations have come to discover that ACIs provide their customers and users with much faster and responsive Internet experience then if the same service was delivered over the traditional Internet. Many are now contracting with commercial ACIs to deliver their content and/or applications. Several of the large carrier Internet providers like Level3 offer such a service. In today’s marketplace offering your customers a faster performing service can provide companies with a significant competitive advantage. In fact some pundits claim that if we were to build the Internet from scratch we would rarely need “end-to-end” communication services as most application such as e-mail, social networking etc can easily exist in the “cloud” supported by ACIs rather than being an end-to-end service. Even supposed “end-to-end” Internet applications like voice or video can easily supported by such ACI services. One of the great Internet pioneers –Van Jacobsen [VAN JACOBSEN] has been doing considerable research in this field and there is a famous YouTube video of his vision for the Future Internet along these very lines. His vision of the future Internet is essentially a global network of integrated ACIs and that end- to-end networks essentially reflect yesterday’s thinking. The Major Components of ACI eco-system Globally there are now hundreds of companies who provide some or all of these ACI services. As mentioned previously there are also many third-party ACIs like Akamai and Limelight who integrate these services in various ways and provide them to application and content companies. There are also companies who specialize in delivery of medical, education and government content and applications. In addition, ACI are in some cases wholly owned by a content or
  7. 7. application company as in the case of large organization such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others. Rather than leasing services from a third-party, they build their own infrastructure, and then either own or lease fiber to connect their facilities together. While these companies do not provide last-mile service to end-users, some last-mile providers, such as Verizon, are also deploying their own CDN and other ACI. Hosting and Serving Facilities Hosting and serving facilities are companies that have built large data centers around the world where they lease space to content and application companies who want to deploy their own servers. Sometimes these hosting and serving companies also deploy their own severs and lease them to content and application providers. Generally the connectivity between separate facilities is arranged independently by the content and application provider. Many of these facilities are also collocated with IXs around the world. Examples of commercial data center and hosting providers include Savvis, QualityTech, Opsource, Switch and Data, Equinix , Rackspace, etc Governments and universities also take advantage of hosting and serving facilities. For example the General Service Administration operates 8 data centers [GSA-CENTER] throughout the US. Content Distribution Networks (CDN) As more and more organizations started distributing content and applications over the Internet, the cost of deploying and managing servers in remote data centers became quite burdensome. This was particularly true for smaller media and content companies. In response several companies started deploying what are called Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) where they undertook complete responsibility for the distribution, replication and load balancing of content and media to various IXs and other interconnection points throughout the Internet. The quintessential examples of CDNs are Akamai and Limelight. There are over a dozen companies in this space including players such as CDNetworks, Edgecast, Voxel, Mirror Image, Amazon Cloudfront, BitGravity, CacheFly, Edgecast Networks, etc As with the hosting companies there are many content distribution networks that are available for smaller content organizations and education or medical applications. Examples include Inuk Networks [INUK] which distributes educational video in the US and the UK Cloud service providers While CDN facilities are useful and cost effective for distributing web pages and streaming video they could not address the need for computing intensive applications or storage. "Clouds" were developed to address this need. Clouds are essentially a global ACI facility of tightly coupled and interconnected computing and storage resources. An entire separate paper could be written on clouds but generally they are broken down into three major applications areas: • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) • Platform as a Service (PaaS) • Software as a Service (SaaS) Infrastructure as a service is cloud ACI where users can configure their own virtual computing infrastructure and deploy their own applications. The Amazon EC2 cloud is the prototypical example of this type of cloud ACI. Platform as a Service, on the other hand, removes much of the
  8. 8. complexity of creating virtual machines and allows users to focus on deploying an application. The Microsoft Azure is built along these lines. The big advantage here for application developers is that they can scale their applications without having to invest in expensive computer servers and hardware. Users can add and subtract computation and storage services as they need and they only pay for what they use. It significantly reduces the cost of implementation as time and resources do not have to be spent configuring physical servers and systems. In addition to the big name clouds like Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, and Azure there are many dozens of other cloud ACI facilities including IBM, 3Tera, Netsuite, Joyent, Rackspace Software-as-a-service is a much more specialized type of cloud service. Some companies provide particular applications that are are offered as services for users to access online, rather than to download to their computer as client software. SalesForce being the poster child for this type of cloud. These types of cloud services allow organizations to offload their labor intensive servers like e-mail and word processing to the net and make these services easily accessible from anywhere around the world. Again, as with content networking there are several clouds being deployed by the research and education community such as NASA's Nebula [NASA] Internet Exchanges (IX) The key component that ties together hosting companies, CDN facilities and clouds into a collective ACI service is the Internet Exchange (IX) point. They often serve a dual purpose: (a) This is where media, content and application companies connect to third party ACI facilities for distribution of their product; and (b) This is where ACI facilities connect with last mile access providers for delivery of the content and applications to the consumer. There is a whole range and variety of IXs from large public facilities such as the Peering and Internet Exchange (PAIX) [PAIX] in Palo Alto California and the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) [AMS-IX] to smaller private facilities called peering points where a last mile provider may directly interconnect with an ACI under terms and conditions that are of mutual benefit to both parties. Backbone and regional ISPs also connect to these IXs in order to reduce their costs of carrying Internet traffic as well. There can be dozens if not hundreds of media, content and applications companies at any given single IX. As well there may be a large number of backbone and regional ISPs. For example the Amsterdam IX has over 345 connected organizations while the PAIX in San Jose has over 75 connected organizations. The IX can be thought of as a large cross connect switch that allows all these parties to exchange traffic with each other. In most cases this is done on what is called a settlement free basis i.e. there is no exchange of money to transmit or receive traffic. The only exception is between backbone and regional ISPs who historically pay for the exchange of traffic between each other. As well several R&E networks such as BCnet in British Columbia, KAREN in New Zealand and UNINETT in Norway provide transit or internet exchange services for smaller communities and cities which are too small to support a commercial IX.
  9. 9. There are several hundred IXs around the world. A reasonably comprehensive list of these exchange points and the connected ACIs and Internet backbones can be found at How ACIs improve delivery of online services Content and application delivery is a critical issue for many media and information companies. In today's Internet, traffic volumes can vary widely and unexpectedly in what are called "flash" events. For instance, President Obama's inauguration generated over 7 million live, simultaneous video streams delivered via Akamai's infrastructure, with total traffic in excess of 2 terabits per second [AKAMAI]. Such huge traffic events can also happen unexpectedly, leading a given services' traffic to surge in a short period of time. In the past content and application providers would have to deploy their own server infrastructure and often do a worst case over provisioning in anticipation of the fluctuating traffic volumes on the Internet. This approach was also suspect to single points of failure from any outage on the Internet which would make the site completely unreachable. By locating servers that host the content in a highly distributed manner at various data centers around the global Internet close to Internet users, content and application providers could insure that there was no single point of failure. If there was a network outage at some point in the network, content and applications could still be delivered elsewhere in the global Internet. This architecture also allows content and application providers to load balance demand for their content and redirect requests for some applications or content to less busy servers somewhere else on the network. How ACIs Improve Consumer Internet Experience One of the original and still critically important drivers for ACIs is to improve the user's Internet experience by reducing latency and enhance application responsiveness. As most congestion occurs in the last mile networks the impact of such congestion is significantly reduced by moving content and applications as close as possible to the consumer. Keeping data local and thereby reducing transmission time can significantly enhance a users’ perception of the quality of the responsiveness of an application – even under congestion and packet loss. As long as there is sufficient bandwidth to prevent egregious congestion in the last mile virtually all new innovative content and applications can be delivered over a best effort last mile network if they originate from an ACI. For example, only a short time ago it seemed unimaginable that one could deliver HD quality movies over the Internet – but this is done routinely today by many services delivered using ACI, such as Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. On the Internet, each time an application on an originating computer sends a packet of data to a distant user it must be acknowledged by the recipient’s computer (who sends a return packet called an (ACK) before another packet from the originating computer is sent. If the originating computer does not receive this acknowledgement packet within a specified time it assumes it hasn’t been lost somewhere in the network and it retransmits the original packet. This simple “handshake” protocol ensures that no packets are lost in transmission across the network.
  10. 10. Packet loss also signals to the originating computer there may be congestion on the network. Presumably the original packet got dropped on the floor somewhere where there was too much data for the network to handle. If you look closely at Internet traffic you will see it is made up of billions and billions of these types of data and acknowledgement packets back and forth across the network. If the originating computer does not receive an acknowledgement packet within a specified time frame not only does it retransmit the original packet it also immediately slows down its transmission rate. Then very slowly the originating computer speeds up the transmission of packets as long as it continues to receive ACKs for every transmitted packet. But if at any time it does not receive an ACK it immediately throttles back the transmission of packets. The time to reach maximum transmission speed is very important and is directly related to the distance between the originating and receiving computer – the greater the distance the longer it takes to reach maximum transmission speed. There are a number of other factors that may control transmission speed, but a basic rule of thumb is that for every doubling of distance, the time to reach maximum speed of transmission is reduced by half. This speed reduction is necessary because greater distances means it takes a much longer time to send packets and receive ACKs. However if there is a single packet drop then transmission is immediately reduced by up to 50% and then slowly allowed to ramp back up. It is obvious that the probability of packet loss will increase the greater the distance between the originating and recipient computers as there are many network links and nodes to traverse – any one of which could be briefly overloaded and cause congestion. Packet loss can occur anywhere along a network from the user’s home, in the last mile and/or across the carrier backbone network. However a study done by StreamCenter [STREAMCENTER] indicates that most congestion occurs in the last mile. Regardless of where the congestion and packet loss occurs in the network the effect is immediate in terms of the responsiveness of the application as perceived by the user. The data transmission rate is immediately reduced which is further aggravated if the originating and recipient computer are a great distance apart. As applications incorporate more multimedia elements such as images and video the impact can be quite dramatic in terms of the speed of which the data is received. The same application if hosted a distant server will take orders of magnitude longer to download then it is delivered locally given typical last mile congestion and packet loss. Internet users experience this phenomena every day. It's worth noting here that some have tried to make a false equivalence between last-mile broadband providers' plans to prioritize traffic on their networks and the use of ACI to enhance performance. This comparison is inapt on a number of levels. As described above, ACIs enhance performance by serving content and applications at a location that is closer to end-users, and by optimizing within an ACI providers' network for that purpose. There is no upper bound on how many content and application providers could benefit from this practice; in theory, everyone could deliver their content and applications from locations nearby to broadband providers. This practice does not in any way impact the delivery of anyone else's non- local traffic across the last-mile broadband provider's network, however. In contrast, a broadband provider prioritizing traffic across its network is ultimately zero-sum. It is impossible for everyone to take advantage of prioritization at the same time.. Prioritization means that some packets are being moved to head of a network router's queue; in turn, some packets are being moved further back in the queue. What's more, only the broadband provider itself has
  11. 11. the ability to prioritize traffic across its last-mile network, in contrast to the many different providers that already provide ACI. How ACIs Enable Innovation and create new economic opportunities Numerous larger Internet companies have deployed their own ACI, in order to improve delivery of their services. However, ACIs also have benefits through the ecosystem, including to start-ups and small companies. Contrary to some perceptions ACIs are not a special channel or privileged service for large media or application providers to deliver their content and services. Although many large content and application companies have deployed their own ACI, there are many companies who specialize in providing ACI as a third party service. It is these companies that are enabling a great deal of new innovation on the Internet by lowering the barriers to entry and enabling small innovative companies and not-for-profit organizations to scale their services as required. Prior to the development of ACIs any small startup with a creative idea faced a daunting challenge in scaling up their business as demand accelerated for their product or service. The cost of deploying hundreds of servers and paying for Internet transit in many cases was a significant challenge for the business case for an Internet startup. But with the advent of ACI facilities such as content distribution networks and clouds, the economics have completely changed. In order to get off the ground, small startups don't even have to invest in a single hosting server, network link or virtually any type of physical infrastructure. By lowering the up-front costs for innovation, it lowers the barriers to entry. For example, Amazon's Web Services is used by thousands of entities, who essentially "rent" server and computing capacity from Amazon. They can operate their own web services on this platform, without deploying or having to maintain their own infrastructure. Amazon started this service, because it wanted "to specifically target small businesses such as software developers, much as it catered to consumers and merchants who sell on Amazon's marketplace." For instance, as discussed in the Wall Street Journal:"Jeffrey McManus operates a Web site called that lets people share and edit documents online. He started the site in August 2006 and funds it himself, using Amazon's online storage service to help him when there is a usage spike on his site. 'The key thing about Amazon's storage service is that it's a pay-as-you-go service,' says the 40- year-old San Francisco resident. "We don't have to make this giant investment up front.'"[WSJ] Another good example is a small startup called Renkoo [WSJ] which developed a Facebook application that lets users send virtual "drinks" to friends. Rather than deploying their own infrastructure the company turned to Amazon to "rent" server computers and computing. This allowed the small startup to scale their application as demand warranted. Renkoo's application became a big hit attracting 30 million users. As customer demand increase, start-ups can scale up their business incrementally using ACI. One can think of the ecosystem of ACI as creating a ladder of investment, with virtual services like AWS at the bottom all the way up to owning one's own ACI and fiber connectivity at the top. Rather than having to make huge investments up front in order to start their business, start-ups can invest over time as their service expands, moving up one rung at a time as they grow their business.
  12. 12. Impact of ACIs on Innovation in Research and Education Although ACIs are often associated with large media, content and application companies. They are playing an increasingly vital role for delivering of educational material and supporting collaborative research. A good example of this approach is the joint Canadian-US research project called Neptune [NEPTUNE]. Neptune is a multi-million dollar research project to deploy several hundred mile long fiber network on the Pacific Ocean floor off the west coast of Canada and the US. The fiber network will connect a host of undersea instruments in particular HDTV cameras and undersea robots at various locations on the ocean floor. These cameras and equipment will not only be accessible by researchers but also by students around the world across the global Internet. The intent is to ultimately create a "virtual aquarium" where students and researchers can view and interact with undersea aquatic life in real time. Obviously the network demands of "virtual aquarium" are huge and so Neptune is using an ACI provided by Akamai to deliver the hundreds if not thousands of real time video streams around the world. Many schools and universities have large archives of educational video which they would like to distribute to students and educators around the world. But as we have seen previously the cost of distributing content, especially video, can be very expensive as it requires a host of servers to deliver multiple streams or downloading of content. In addition, it imposes a huge cost on both the originating and receiving institution in terms of Internet transit costs. As a result many institutions are now using ACIs such as Content Delivery Networks and clouds for delivery of their content. Other research projects are using ACI for crowd sourcing applications. For instance, there are "Citizen Science" projects [CITIZEN] that engage with students and the general public to help them identify exo-planets orbiting far off stars and catalog thousands of previously unknown species in our forests and oceans. IBM has deployed an ACI facility called the World Community Grid [WORLD] that taps into computing and storage resources around the world that is voluntarily provided by many organizations. This ACI is contributing to research in finding new cures for diseases such as Alzheimers and AIDS. And of course computation clouds provided such as those provided by Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure are having a huge impact on university computational research and burgeoning field of what is called "eScience" or "cyber-infrastructure" Cyber-infrastructure is a specialized form of ACI earmarked for the research and education community but accomplishes many of the same goals in that it links instruments, computation and storage across the Internet to enable new ways of doing science. In the research and education sector good examples of global scaling ACIs include the distributed computing and network infrastructure for the Large Hadron Collier (LHC) [LHCNET] based in Geneva. Another example is the University of San Diego Optiputer project [OPTIPUTER]. In many of these examples the ACIs have acquired their own fiber networks, as well as trans-ocean wavelengths. Some experts such as Dan Reed [REED], Vice President of Microsoft and formerly a member of the President's Committee on the Advancement of Science and Technology (PCAST) claim that in the future most university research will be entirely dependent on ACIs.
  13. 13. ACIs and Innovative Delivery of Government Services The General Services Administration of the US government several months ago announced a cloud services portal called "". The portal allows agencies and department to develop applications using third party commercial ACI facilities such as clouds and social media services. As the "" web site mentions it allows agencies and government departments to scale their applications without having to invest in expensive computer servers and hardware. Users can add and subtract computation and storage services at they need and they only pay for what they use. It significantly reduces the cost of implementation as time and resources do not have to be spent configuring physical servers and systems. Most importantly it provides enhanced service quality to citizens who use these services. How ACIs benefit the rest of the Internet Ecosystem To understand the impact of ACIs are having on the evolving Internet one only has to look at a recent study by Arbor Networks [ARBOR]. Arbor Networks – in collaboration with University of Michigan and Merit Network presented the largest study of global Internet traffic since the start of the commercial Internet at recent Internet engineering conference in October 2009. The study included analysis of Internet traffic across 110 large and geographically diverse cable operators, international end-to end carrier backbones, regional networks and content providers. Results from the study show that over the last five years, Internet traffic has migrated away from the traditional Internet core of ten to twelve backbone providers and now flows directly between large content providers and last mile networks (and then to their end-users). As the study notes these networks “have become so popular they are changing the shape of the Internet itself such that many organizations and ISPs are directly peering with content providers rather than purchasing transit from [backbone] ISPs”. As a result the costs of Internet transit have dropped dramatically for all the parties in the Internet eco-system. Major media and content now often deliver their content directly to third party ACIs at major IXs where most traffic is exchanged on a settlement free basis. Regional ISPs and last mile providers have then been able to reduce the amount of Internet transit they purchase from backbone Internet providers by directly connecting to an ACI at an IX. Backbone ISPs have also benefited in that their costs are also significantly reduced as they can also access the same traffic delivered by ACIs rather than carrying it on their backbones. ACIs have not only reduced Internet transit costs but they have also introduced a greater degree of competition. A content and application provider now has many different ways of delivering their product to end users. Organization with a few very small applications and with a limited market can still choose to host their own servers and purchase Internet transit from a regional or backbone ISP. Alternatively they can decide to deploy multiple servers at different hosting data centers or move their content or application to any number of third party ACI companies. As we have seen there are a plethora of such companies with a wide range of services and options. ACIs have also significantly reduced the cost of Internet infrastructure by adopting new network architectures that simply and reduce the complexity of the traditional backbone ISP facilities. Again this benefits not only the ACI but reduces cost of Internet delivery to all members of the Internet eco-system. Because ACIs provide load balancing and redundancy through the wide distribution of servers at various nodes around the world they do not need complex and highly redundant network facilities between these node. In previous studies the author has estimated the cost savings of this type of architecture is a fraction of the cost of a traditional backbone ISP infrastructure [ST. ARNAUD]
  14. 14. Future Evolution for ACIs The distinguishing and unifying feature of ACIs is that they are an Internet infrastructure the closely couples network links with compute storage and content to enhance user’s Internet experience by delivering content and applications locally. ACIs are likely to be a major component of the next generation of wireless and Internet networks as exemplified by research programs such as GENI and the future “green” or “energy-aware” Internet. These programs generalize the concept of ACIs as fundamental feature of the Internet through virtualization of the network, computing and storage links. The UCLP [UCLP] initiative extended this concept further by allowing users to deploy and manage their own ACIs. Although UCLP is often confused with end-to-end circuit switched optical network solutions as it also uses lightpaths, its original intended purpose was to allow researchers and businesses to construct their own ACI (also referred to as an Articulated Private Network (APN)) and/or establish direct peering to one or more Internet Exchange points. The Zero Carbon Internet Since ACIs achieve redundancy and reliability at the application or content layer they are inherently more robust and reliable than a traditional end-to-end network which can have many points of failure. As a consequence they are ideally suited to an environment that has clean but perhaps unreliable sources of power. As mentioned previously research by MIT and Rutgers indicate the ACIs may reduce computing and storage energy costs by as much as 45% compared to distributing and storing data over the public end-to-end Internet. These energy savings are possible because it is a fundamental feature of ACIs to support distributed computation, data sets and information where data and computation quickly moved from one node to another in the wide scale infrastructure. Research projects such as GreenStar [GREENSTAR] are deploying “green” ACIs where the infrastructure is powered solely by renewable energy may play an important role in addressing the challenge of climate change. A future Internet may be made up of multiple Green ACIs like Greenstar whose revenue may be derived not only from traditional content and applications but through carbon offsets or “gCommerce” applications under a national Cap and Dividend or Cap and Reward program.[CAP] ACI, Network Neutrality Challenges and Last Mile Networks The growing dominant role of ACIs in the Internet infrastructure may pose future challenges for regulators to insure that ACIs are able to peer and interconnect to last mile Internet service providers and that their services are accessible and unconstrained to the ultimate consumer. As more and more Internet Exchanges are deployed closer to consumers, the future Internet regulatiry battle ground will be the last mile. The inadequate investment in last mile infrastructure, particularly in North America, was one of the principle drivers to deploy ACI facilities so that content and application companies could ensure a certain degree of responsiveness and interactivity with users. As ACI facilities are
  15. 15. increasingly bypassing the backbone ISPs, despite the drop in Internet transit costs, the last redoubt for the cable and telephone companies will be ownership and control of the last mile infrastructure. But as discussed earlier it is in the last mile where most Internet congestion occurs. Despite the huge investment made by ACIs in building out their infrastructure as close as possible to the end consumer, it may not be sufficient to overcome the limitations to today’s last mile infrastructure particularly with the next generation of high bandwidth applications and as the carriers increasingly rely on traffic management techniques to address the challenges of congestion. Historically building a last mile infrastructure that was part of a national or global end-to-end network was very challenging and you needed large companies to maintain and build this infrastructure. But with the development of ACIs and the disintermediation of end-to-end network the last mile is a stand alone element which does not require the complexity of previous end-to- end facilities. Concepts like “Customer Owned Networks” [CUSTOMER] are thereby easier to imagine and may represent the future direction of how we deploy and manage last mile infrastructure. The concept of RPON [RPON] was a further articulation of this idea to allow consumers to control and manage their peering and multi-home with multiple ACIs at a nearby Internet Exchange point. The recent announcement by Google to fund a number of last mile fiber to the home pilot projects may be the necessary catalyst to enable these types of innovative last mile solutions. ACI and Wireless Internet The existing cell phone networks are architected very much along the lines of a traditional end-to- end network as their primary application is voice. 3G/4G networks have very complex infrastructures as they need to provide a reliable and continuous voice service with a mobile end device. But as Internet data application start to dominate with the new generation of wireless devices the same architectural changes we have seen with wire line networks may also become evident with wireless networks as well. It is likely that “mobile” ACIs will soon appear on the scene perhaps using the new “white space” spectrum. This part of the spectrum as well as other bands such as those earmarked for WiFi and WiMax may be ideal for mobile ACI services, as opposed to traditional end-to-end voice cell phone networks which require a much higher grade of uncongested spectrum. New multi-receiver radios that can share radio spectrum and mobile data platforms as exemplified by the iPhone and Android will soon be able to connect simultaneously to several different wireless ACI and end-to- end 3G/4G networks. This will also present new challenges to regulators to insure that these mobile data platforms remain open and that users will have unrestricted access to mobile ACIs. The Kindle or iPhone are early examples of the next generation of mobile Internet devices. But if they remain locked to one 3G/4G vendor then their practicality and usefulness will be limited especially as users start to download large content such as textbooks, videos, etc. And this is not mention there are other challenges in terms of their archaic and concerted practice of using Digital Rights Management tools to limit access and sharing. R&E networks may be well positioned to offer wireless Internet services to students and faculty at university and college campuses throughout the country. As universities and colleges migrate student e-mail away from their own servers and as social networking tools like Facebook and texting become the more prevalent way of communicating the need for high speed wireless access will be critical both off and on campus.
  16. 16. Most R&E networks are uncongested and have already established peerings with major ACI facilities it would be very easy for them to offer wireless ACI services using WiFi and “white space” for the next generation of mobile devices as exemplified by the Android and/or iPad. Deployment of “zero carbon” white space base stations at universities and schools in partnership with major ACI companies could extend reach of their networks beyond the campus so students and faculty could still access high speed data even off campus. It also may offer new revenue opportunities in terms of both “gCommerce” and traditional applications for R&E networks and their ACI partners. ACI and IPv6 addressing As more and more traffic originates with ACI facilities the bulk of Internet routing will be done through DNS hacks. The DNS system was never intended to be a routing protocol, but there has been little research on developing new routing protocols for this type of architecture other than Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) XML style routing. In any event the pressure for IPv6 routing may be somewhat mitigated by the development of ACI. If ACIs continue to expand and dominate Internet traffic we may need to rethink the need for IPv6 deployment or addressing techniques such Loc/ID split [LOC/ID]. Instead URI routing and/or combinations of Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) with late binding between DNS and IP forwarding addresses may be a better long term solution. An important area of research, such as that undertaken by Van Jacobson needs to be undertaken to explore these issues. ACIs present host of unique challenges in terms of addressing, security and information redundancy that yet to have been adequately addressed. Role of R&E networks and ACI Originally most R&E networks were also designed as end-to-end networks. But the advent of the academic equivalent to ACI referred to as cyber-infrastructure or eInfrastructure is fundamentally changing their role in the same way it is affecting traditional Internet backbone providers. Increasingly R&E networks will have four critical roles with respect to ACI: (a) Enabling the deployment of ACI or cyber-infrastructure by research discipline or community of interest; (b) Enabling researchers and educators to access commercial ACI services by direct peering; (c) Hosting transit or Internet exchange points in smaller communities and cities where no commercial IX exists; and (d) Perhaps ultimately deploying wireless ACI services as well as content and peering for not-for-profit organizations to create a National Public Internet (NPI) in the same spirit as National Public Radio (NPR) or PBS. The deployment of specialized network facilities supporting cyber-infrastructure is well underway in many countries and there are several large cyber-infrastructure facilities that integrate computing, storage and networking. But the challenge for most R&E network operators in this environment, as we have seen with Internet backbone operators, is to realize that their role as a general network service provider is being supplanted by the cyber-infrastructure IT staff who manage and control the cyber-infrastructure including its network components. As mentioned previously the UCLP technology was developed specifically for this purpose to allow R&E network
  17. 17. operators to hand off control and management of portions of the network to the cyber- infrastructure management team. However R&E networks can play an important intermediary role with respect to providing interconnections to commercial ACIs at IXs who provide a variety services to the R&E community. This role will become critically important as major ACIs like Microsoft’s recent announcement to provide free access to their computation cloud for the research community. The Internet 2 and NLR content peering service is a good example of the value of this type of arrangement. A more important role for R&E networks is perhaps to extend the benefits of ACIs to smaller communities that do not have a carrier neutral IX. Several R&E networks already provide this service such as BCnet in British Columbia, KAREN in New Zealand and UNINETT in Norway. Deploying these IXs will also enable small not-for-profit content and application providers to access ACI facilities in larger centers in order to distribute their content globally. R&E network can play an important aggregation and intermediary role for these smaller players. Cultural content organizations, in particular don’t have the clout and wherewithal to distributed their content globally or even locally. Providing a service for this community may be ultimately be the most important role for R&E networks leading to the concept of a National Public Internet. National Public Internet One of the recurring drivers for ACI is to overcome the limitations of the last mile infrastructure by locating content and applications as close as possible to the consumer. While carrier neutral IXs exist in most major cities they are very rare in smaller communities. Governments and not for profit organizations who wish to distribute content, especially video, to these smaller communities over the Internet face a serious challenge. While they can contract with commercial ACIs to deliver their content to consumers in major centers where there is local IX this is not possible in smaller cities or rural areas. One possible important role for R&E networks is to extend commercial ACI services to these smaller centers for the distribution of not for profit content to consumers. As broadcast organizations such as PBS, CBC or TVO look to have their entire content accessible over the Internet they have an obligation to the public to insure that it accessible by all citizens especially in smaller cities and rural areas. Backhauling this content over commercial networks may impose a significant burden to ISPs and huge cost to the content provider as we have witnessed in the complaints in the UK by BBC’s Internet broadcast service. Using a commercial ACI service for major centers in combination with R&E networks for smaller cities may provide a workable solution. The commercial last mile ISPs are still responsible for delivering the content and remain the customer facing organization, but the R&E network, in effect, becomes an extension of a commercial ACI for the purposes of distribution of not-for-profit content. The concept of a National Public Internet will probably generate considerable debate, but as we have seen in the past the Internet revolution never ceases and with every new development there will always be those who want to maintain the status quo of outdated business models. But we cannot ignore the fact that the Internet has now become probably the most important vehicle for the dissemination and sharing of information and content. References [WSJ] Mangalidan, M, "Small Firms Tap Amazon's Juice", January15, 2008, Wall St. On Line,
  18. 18. [NEPTUNE] Neptune Canada Outreach and Education Program, [GSA] Vivek Kundra, Federal CIO video speaking about new Federal Government "" web site, new-appsgov-model.html [INTERNET2] Internet 2 Content and Peering Service, [GARTNER] "Gartner says Cloud market is expected to reach $150.1 billion in 2013.", [CROWE] Interview with President of Level 3 on future of CDN, [INUK] Inuk distance education video service, [PAIX] Peering and Internet Exchange Point now operated by Switch and Data, History and background [AMS-IX] The world's largest Internet exchange, [AKAMAI] [STREAMCENTER] Cataltepe, Z. Moghe, P., Characterizing nature and location of congestion on the public Internet, 30 June-3 July 2003, p 741- 746 vol.2, [AKAMAI] Leighton, T., "Akamai and Cloud Computing: A perspective from the edge of the cloud" [WSJ] Mangalidan, M, "Small Firms Tap Amazon's Juice", January15, 2008, Wall St. Journal On Line [FACEBOOK] [CITIZEN] Citizen Science, Blog on many examples of how clouds, CDN networks, crowd sourcing etc help students and citizens participate in scientific discovery http://citizen- [WORLD] World Community Grid, [LHCNET] Global network linking computers and databases for high energy physics, [OPTIPUTER] Optical network linking computers, visulization servers, etc [ST. ARNAUD] St. Arnaud, W., et al. "Architectural and Engineering Issues for Building an Optical Internet", 1998,
  19. 19. [REED] Reed, D., "Outsourcing: Perhaps its time" January 14, 2009 [ARBOR] C. Labovitz, et al "ATLAS Internet Observatory 2009 Annual Report" on.pdf [AccuStream] "CDN Market Growth 2006 - 2009" [UCLP] User controlled LightPaths, option=com_content&task=view&id=80&Itemid=87 [RPON] Reverse Passive Optical Networks, Free fiber to the home, http://free-fiber-to-the- [GREENSTAR] Building a zero carbon network, [CAP] Cap and Dividend versus Cap and Reward [CUSTOMER] D. Slater, T.Wu, Homes with Tails, What if you could own your Internet connection, [BABCOCK] Babcock school of Management textbooks for 160 students alone produces 45 Tons CO2 [LOC/ID] Author Bio Bill St Arnaud was previously Chief Research Officer CANARIE Inc., an industry government consortium to promote and develop information highway technologies in Canada, where he worked for 15 years. He is Bill is currently pursuing pursing new opportunities related to his on- going passion for Internet networking, especially in the area of developing network and ICT tools to mitigate climate change. At CANARIE, Bill St. Arnaud was been responsible for the coordination and implementation of Canada's next generation optical Internet initiative called CA*net 4. Previously he was President and founder of a network and software engineering firm called TSA ProForma Inc. TSA was a LAN/ WAN software company that developed wide area network client/server systems for use primarily in the financial and information business fields in the Far East and the United States. Bill is a frequent guest speaker at numerous conferences on the Internet and optical networking and is a regular contributor to several networking magazines.