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Networking czar sees Internet toll road ahead

Sun leery of S/WAN effort, many users adopting switched-Ethernet routers quickly

By Mark Cappel

April  1996
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Sun's networking czar predicts users will see tollroads on the Internet as makers of high-capacity routers, such as Cisco and Bay Networks, add the technology necessary for billing users per "flow," in much the same way as telephone users pay for long-distance calls today.

Robert D. Bressler, Sun's networking chief scientist, made these comments following Sun's Internet-themed product announcement in San Francisco on March 26. Bressler was a featured presenter during the product roll-out, which included a developer's toolkit for Java programmers, several new UltraSPARC-powered Netra servers optimized for Internet duty, a middleware for Java applets that connect to CORBA-compliant applications, and other Internet-related products. (See a related news story for more details.)

Bressler's Internet toll road prediction is based on the "RSVP" Internet quality of service protocol that the major router vendors (3Com, Bay Networks, and Cisco) have adopted and are adding to their wares.

"One of the things it allows you to do is set up a quality of service IP flow, which is really just a circuit," he said. "You spend some time up-front finding if a circuit is available that meets your needs, and gives you a circuit ID. It's a circuit. It's got set-up. It's got tear-down. And you know who it is.

"I believe that quality of service (or class of service as this is sometimes called) will be the enabling technology to allow the carriers to sell bandwidth to the Internet."

Today's Internet routers do not have RSVP, but he said it will be added soon. "Then it's just a question of getting it hooked up, going through trials. It's probably one to two years before it's available, The demand will force it."

Bressler was less enthusiastic about the S/WAN initiative, which is a fledgling group of firewall makers that want to add encryption capabilities to their firewalls. Their goal is to make it possible for firewalls from different vendors to conduct encrypted, secure communications -- such as e-mail and ftp -- in a manner similar to Sun's SunScreen product.

"If you go to the least common denominator, what do you give up? Recently people are learning how to tunnel through a protocol -- and once you tunnel through a legitimate protocol the firewall loses some of its capabilities." Security needs, he said, change quickly as malicious hackers find chinks in a firewall's armor. " You can't have a standards committee in series with these changes."


High-speed LANs growing in popularity
"Over the past decade, the power on your desktop has gone up by about two orders of magnitude -- from about 1 MIPS to 100 MIPS," Bressler said. "In that whole time, network bandwidth has stayed flat. It was 10 megabit shared Ethernet then and it's 10 megabit shared Ethernet now. Some argue that since it's full up, bandwidth has gone down.

"All of a sudden, in the space of a year, we get switched 10 megabit Ethernet, we get Fast Ethernet, ATM, and we're talking about gigabit Ethernet," he said. "My prediction is that in the next five years we'll see three orders of magnitude improvement."

The cost to buy a switched 10 megabit network, he said, is the same as a conventional shared 10 megabit network.

Bressler also said the idea of servers as "appliances" is catching on with Sun customers. "When you had a shared network, it really didn't pay to put another server on the network," he said. "There was no bandwidth -- you were just increasing the contention." As a result, Sun and users have piled tasks on servers "because the most precious resource was the link to the network. When you move to switched networks, that changes."

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