Not your Father's Internet Architecture

BCS Internet Specialist Group event.

Monday 28 November 2011, 6.30pm

BCS London Office, Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London, WC2E 7HA | Maps

Mark Handley, Professor of Networked Systems at University College London


The Internet architecture describes a hourglass-shaped layered model. At the waist is IP, which provides a unified end-to-end addressible packet-switched network. Below IP, link layer technologies come and go, but IP remains unchanged. Above IP we have TCP and UDP which have changed little since the late 1970s, but above that there is a plethora of innovation in applications that changes rapidly on an almost weekly basis.

The last major change to IP was the introduction of CIDR in 1993, the last major change to TCP was congestion control in 1988, and UDP is unchanged since 1981. IPv6 has been twenty years in the making and is still not widely deployed. I hope it is, by the way, but it is really just IPv4 with bigger addresses. So it looks like the core network protocols have ossified; perhaps they really are no longer changeable? Or perhaps the fathers of the Internet got it so right that there's simply no need for change?

In Mark's talk he'll discuss how the picture above misses the point. The Internet architecture, as we teach it to students, simply no longer describes the Internet. He'll talk about the complex, undocumented and rather ugly Internet that has evolved, what it means for future innovation, and talk briefly about our attempts to extend TCP for multipath use in the context of the de-facto Internet non-architecture that we have observed.