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Intel to save the internet single-handed

Thant's as long as it really needs saving

Intel is going to single-handedly save the Internet. That is what its CTO Pat Gelsinger used his concluding address at the Intel Developer Forum to tell the world.

Why does it need saving? Simple, with millions of new devices connecting to the Net every year, it won't be long before it all gets too complex and the whole thing falls down.

And so, Pat tells us, he has a solution: a new layer of intelligent nodes and services, powered by – you've guessed it – Intel processors. This will grow over the current Net infrastructure and route network traffic intelligently to avoid bottlenecks. It's similar to what a lot of IT companies are currently working frantically on with regard to server virtualisation and storage networks, but for the Internet.

To show how serious Intel is in its new Luke Skywalker role, Pat has already got 440 nodes across the planet handling routing and security. Intel has seen the future and it is Intel.

For such a huge task of course Intel realises it may need one or two others. The initiative/program/global brand is called PlanetLab and it already boasts such big names as HP, France Telecom and Google. Zikes! Can anything stop the inevitable?

Well if history is anything to go by, it won't need to be stopped, it'll just kind of fizzle out as everyone forgets what made the Internet and tries to impose their own wonderful solution.

Intel, believe it or not, is not the first to think that the Internet may need a bit of an overhaul. Since 1996, a whole stream of organisations – government, academic and nonprofit – and companies have been harping on about their own pet projects.

There is the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) for example, which provides help and funding to another two projects, both determined to recreate the Internet in their image: Internet2 and Project Abilene. Project Abilene in fact defines itself as a second backbone to Internet2. And then there's the Next Generation Internet (NGI).

Where Internet2 is focused on creating a higher education and improved public Internet, the NGI is determined to make the world rosier for the US government, federal authorities and the like. The only thing that all these appear to have in common, apart from where their money comes from, is the determined belief that the USA should remain in effective charge of the internet.

And that is probably the biggest reason why, with the Internet coating every corner of the world, that they have all been less-than-successful at introducing their visions of the new internet.

However, Intel still believes it has the right solution. So right, in fact, that it doesn't need anyone in the world to help it. At least the other efforts have wide industry support. It even says Internet2 is on board. Andeven Vint "living in the past" Cerf has endorsed it, a sure sign that it is doomed to failure.

But where exactly are Cisco, Microsoft, Sun, Nortel, Lucent, 3Com, IBM, MCI, Siemens, Novell, Apple, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Alcatel and so on? You'd think that if you were going to rebuild the internet you might want to think about bringing some of these companies along with you.

Of course it's a dream to be the people behind refining and expanding the internet, but that's all it is – a dream. The internet will grow and expand in odd, irregular lumps. Ways will be found and if they take off, people will copy them. In the meantime, a lot of money, time, effort and intelligence looks set to be wasted on people coming up with pie-in-the-sky perfect solutions.

Oh, and the USA would do well to realize – as even ICANN has (and ICANN should really be the people behind expanding and supporting the internet) – that the whole point of the internet is that it's global. As sad as it is, by trying to look forward, a lot of talented people are looking back.


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