Network Collapse: Why the internet is flirting with disaster

A panel of academic experts recently took part in a discussion on the future of the internet, and among other things highlighted its fragility, the ease with which it can be disrupted and its seeming resistance to change.

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The weaknesses arise primarily from the fact that the internet comprises protocols for Layer 3 networking in the TCP/IP stack, invented many years ago.

“There are a lot of challenges for the internet. We face daily problems,” said Timothy Roscoe, a professor at ETH, Zurich’s science, technology and mathematics university in Zurich.

“Most of what we do is at Layer 3, which is what makes the internet the internet.” However, new and incredibly popular services, such as YouTube, Netflix, Twitter and Facebook, have put pressures on these protocols.

New age, old protocols

Laurent Vanbever, an assistant professor at ETH, said: “There is a growing expectation by users that they can watch a 4K video on Netflix while someone else in the house is having a Skype call. They expect it to work but the protocols of the internet were designed in the 1970s and 1980s and we are now stretching the boundaries.”

The internet is often described as a network of networks. What makes these networks communicate with one another is BGP, the border gateway protocol. In essence, it’s the routing protocol used by internet service providers (ISP). It makes the internet work.

Roscoe said: “BGP is controlled by 60,000 people, who need to cooperate but also compete.” These people, network engineers at major ISPs, email each other to keep the internet running.

Source: computerweekly.com-Network Collapse: Why the internet is flirting with disaster

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