Professor Peter Kirstein CBE

Recently, I have been involved in looking at the decade of Internet development from 1983 until 1993, which was the date that the first Web browser and sites appeared, created by Tim Berners-Lee, a Distinguished Fellow of the BCS.

There would be no Web without the Internet infrastructure, but it is more important for this case to state that there would be no Global Internet without Peter Kirstein, and the impact of the Web on everyday life would be a pale shadow of what we see today without his relentless pursuit of connectivity outside the USA.

Dating back to 1973, Peter Kirstein has negotiated a series of research and development projects that have stressed the protocols of the Internet to breaking point, and then through a sequence of inspired collaborations, run the projects to enhance the system to fix those very problems.

This process continues today, when he is 70 years old, with the SILK project, extending the Internet via wireless and IPv6 into parts of the commonwealth of independent states and the developing countries, Middle East and beyond (on the old "Silk Road", hence the name of the project).

In the 1970s the goal was to interconnect computers in the UK and Europe to the emerging US ARPANET, and led to the idea of a concatenation of networks run over the wide area, including the SATNET (Atlantic Packet Satellite network), the ARPANET, the MILNET, and others.

Eventually, the TCP/IP protocols were defined and deployed in 1981, and the system approximately as we know it today emerged. ARPA funded work at UCL contributed to TCP performance for satellites and other long-haul high delay (and high throughput) networks.

However, the administrative and security problems caused by inter-connecting multi-agency networks in the 1980s led to the need for policy control of routes, and the very existence of Peter Kirstein's UK projects required the development of BGP, the protocol now used to interconnect all the Internet Service Providers in the world - ARPA funded work at UCL at the time contributed to the development of BGP.

In the late 1980s, it became clear that the global community of researchers needed tighter collaboration, and Peter engaged in another sequence of projects funded by the EU as well as the US to develop and deploy a set of multi-media collaboration tools (the "mbone" tools, for "multicast backbone"), and the network support for these tools. These are now part of the GRID (The "Access Grid") as a standard, and allow real time video and audio access as well as shared editing of documents.

In the 1990s, the emergence of wide area wireless (as opposed to wireless LAN) was clearly causing pressure for the Internet to make its next step, and Peter engaged in the IPv6 deployment program with a vengeance, especially in Europe and with its neighbours.

IPv6 is required for a variety of reasons, but no more so than in wide area wireless access networks such as GPRS and 3G, and Peter has made connections with groups in the Far East who have felt this same pressure, and for the first time, a large scale effort is ahead of the US across our networking community, and not just in Peter's laboratories.

Most recently Peter has also engaged in high performance networks, contributing to the case for the UKLight network, which will provide multiple, multi Gigabit per second wavelengths between the UK and EU and US to support our eScience collaborations.

Along the way, Peter has been involved in many other projects with Libraries, Directory Services, Secure E-Mail, and Certificate Authorities and so on.

In summary, the case for Peter is overwhelming. His contributions have been selfless, and are visible in the infrastructure all around us in society, not just in academia and industry. He has carried this out in the face of some early opposition, but with a clear engagement in the alternatives so that his choice of direction has always been supported by a clear understanding and documentation of the comparative performance and functionality of the alternatives (e.g. OSI, ATM, Teletext, etc etc.).

I would add that he has already been recognised in the US by the ACM Special Interest Group in Communications which gave him its highest award two years ago.

Nominated by Professor Jon Crowcroft