The people who brought you the Internet would like to un-bring it, at least in its current form. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is trying to move the networking world more quickly to a future that doesn't rely on the Internet Protocol addressing scheme, wired technology, and relatively inefficient end-to-end networking. Private enterprise benefited immensely from the Internet, of course, and the same may eventually be the case with Darpa's current work.
What Darpa would like to see in future networking topology is a peer-to-peer model that carries any number of improvements. One is sheer speed: Peer-to-peer schemes could cut out many of the hops that networked data have to take in an end-to-end setup, say Darpa officials. Another is the flexibility that peer-based nets could offer. And, on top of Darpa 's work, peer-to-peer models being developed in the enterprise are starting to gain favor as a way to provide easily maintained security that doesn't rely on traditional firewalls and other endpoint blocking methods.
Darpa 's advances are part of a larger period of innovation in networking, one already being driven by the increased ubiquity of wireless. Not just 802.11 wireless, either, but low-power, self-sensing networks that incorporate RFID and other radiocast technology, mesh schemes that move data without relying on end-to-end protocols, and dynamic-spectrum assignments. In fact, the mesh networks that are already solving some wireless-access issues are also part of Darpa's overall menu. And even at the IP level, the close reality of IPv6 (already taking hold in overseas networks) should improve the ability to employ peer-based nets.
Should the theoretical become practical, the benefits for the enterprise could be enormous. Nearly everything related to a business could sit on the network, yet avoid the throughput nightmare that such massive usage would cause now. Although it'll take time for some of these technologies to filter down to the enterprise level, they're still enough to make a corporate network manager dream big dreams.
Darpa Looks Past Ethernet, IP Nets
In a handful of high-level programs, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is pushing beyond Ethernet and Internet Protocol to hammer home the message that peer-to-peer networks are the future, and the future is now.
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