ITU-T Technology Watch Reports
The Future Internet (April 2009)1
The Future Internet
Despite many changes and transformationssince its inception, the Internet has provedto be flexible as new applications andservices arose:
It was conceived in the era of time-sharing, but has survived into the eraof personal computers, client-serverand peer-to-peer computing, and thenetwork computer. It was designedbefore LANs existed, but hasaccommodated that new network technology, as well as the morerecent ATM and frame switchedservices. It was envisioned assupporting a range of functions fromfile sharing and remote login toresource sharing and collaboration,and has spawned electronic mail andmore recently the World Wide Web.But most important, it started as thecreation of a small band of dedicatedresearchers, and has grown to be acommercial success with billions of dollars of annual investment.
From a simple means of communicatingamong computers, the Internet, coupledwith the uptake of broadband, has emergedas a fundamental part of modern society inmost countries. New applications emergeeveryday and some have become culturalicons, such as YouTube and Facebook. Itshierarchy has been extended frominternational, national and campusnetworks to include networks forbusinesses, homes, cars, and individuals.The Internet has gone mobile, as deviceson cellular networks have been enabled forthe Internet Protocol (IP), already used byseveral millions of individuals andpotentially several billions. Sensors havebeen added to some networks, extendingthe system to objects fitted with RFID tags,creating the potential for the Internet of Things (IOT).
On top of these networksand devices lies a vast array of applicationsfor e-commerce, e-government, e-education and e-health, togethercomprising the Internet of Services (IOS).In order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions, Internet services are also beingdeveloped to monitor energy use and toincrease energy efficiency.
To meet the demands of new applications,services and users and to serve as a vitalpart of national and global infrastructure,the Internet is continually evolving. At thesame time, some observers havequestioned whether the underlyingarchitecture is sufficiently robust to evolveand adapt to these new demands, andinstead contend that a “clean slate” approach is needed to develop a ‘new’ Internet of the future. Supporters of theclean slate approach often cite securityconcerns as one of the key reasons todevelop a new architecture.To assess this debate and its impact onfuture standards work, this Report beginsby examining the design and architecture of the Internet, and contrasts the differentviews calling for evolutionary and radicalchanges to the Internet. It then examineskey trends in the Internet, how these mightdevelop and their impact on the futurearchitecture and design of the Internet. Thepossible effects of the various trends arethen mapped onto the processes forstandardization to identify some futureareas of work. The Report ends by drawingsome conclusions.
2 Framing the Debate
The “design” of the Internet has been thesubject of debate for years. There havebeen periodic calls to purge theaccumulation of fixes and patches and toadopt the so-called “clean slate” approach.These call for radical change come bothfrom designers seeking to join the Internetfounding fathers, and also from some of thefounding fathers themselves.The existing Internet architecture datesback to the 1970s and was designed tocreate simplified network andimplementation protocols, guided byconcepts such as Layering and packet