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Larry Roberts Says 'Net Broken, Proposes Flow Management

Lawrence Roberts, the illustrious engineer who led the development of ARPAnet, is back with a provocatively titled IEEE Spectrum article, The Internet Is Broken. The piece makes the case for his long-standing proposal to ease Internet congestion with a bandwidth-management technique called flow management.

Roberts has a big chunk of self-interest here - you could also say he's putting his money where his mouth is - because flow management is the raison d'etre for Anagran Inc., the two-year-old startup of which he's CEO, president, and chairman. And Roberts's views merit attention because of his place in Internet history.

So what exactly is this "flow management" idea he's pushing? Before we get to that, let's look at the problem he purports to solve. This is all complex stuff, and I'm being extremely reductionist, so I commend you to the full article when you're done with this post. Roberts has several complaints with the current state of affairs, all more or less pointing toward the succinct thought that traditional routers suck. (How's that for reductionist?)  

First, he says that traffic is exploding, mostly in the form of videostreams from videoconferencing, Skype, and YouTube. He adds that P2P networks are sucking up a lot of network bandwidth. ("P2P participants may constitute only 5 percent of the users in some networks, while consuming 75 percent of the bandwidth.")

Then he laments the fact that traditional IP packet routers can't guaranteed good QoS for video streams. (Since those streams are becoming more important, because of videoconferencing and Unified Communications, this is a really big deal.)

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