The Internet is Dead – Long Live the Internet

By Juha Holkkola

Back in the early 2000s, several notable Internet researchers were predicting the death of the Internet. Based on the narrative, the Internet infrastructure had not been designed for the scale that was being projected at the time, supposedly leading to fatal security and scalability issues. Yet somehow the Internet industry has always found a way to dodge the bullet at the very last minute.

While the experts projecting gloom and doom have been silent for the good part of the last 15 years, it seems that the discussion on the future of the Internet is now resurfacing. Some industry pundits such as Karl Auerbach have pointed out that essential parts of Internet infrastructure such as the Domain Name System (DNS) are fading from users’ views. Others such as Jay Turner are predicting the downright death of the Internet itself.

Looking at the developments over the last five years, there are indeed some powerful megatrends that seem to back up the arguments made by the two gentlemen:

  • As the mobile has penetrated the world, it has created a shift from browser-based services into mobile applications. Although not many people realize this, the users of mobile apps do not really have to interface the Internet infrastructure at all. Instead, they simply push the buttons in the app and the software is intelligent enough to take care off the rest. Because of these developments, key services in the Internet infrastructure are gradually disappearing from the plain sight of the regular users.
  • As Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing gain momentum, the enterprise side of the market is increasingly concerned about the level of information security. Because the majority of these threats originate from the public Internet, building walls between private networks and the public Internet has become an enormous business. With emerging technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN), we are now heading towards a world littered with private networks that expand from traditional enterprise setups into public clouds, isolated machine networks and beyond.

Once these technology trends have played their course, it is quite likely that the public Internet infrastructure and the services it provides will no longer be directly used by most people. In this sense, I believe both Karl Auerbach and Jay Turner are quite correct in their assessments.

Yet at the same time, both the mobile applications and the secure private networks that move the data around will continue to be highly dependent on the underlying public Internet infrastructure. Without a bedrock on which the private networks and the public cloud services are built, it would be impossible to transmit the data. Due to this, I believe that the Internet will transform away from the open public network it was originally supposed to be.

As an outcome of this process, I further believe that the Internet infrastructure will become a utility that is very similar to the electricity grids of today. While almost everyone benefits from them on daily basis, only electric engineers are interested in their inner workings or have a direct access to them. So essentially, the Internet will become a ubiquitous transport layer for the data that flows within the information societies of tomorrow.

From the network management perspective, the emergence of the secure overlay networks running on top of the Internet will introduce a completely new set of challenges. While network automation can carry out much of the configuration and management work, it will cause networks to disappear from the plain sight in a similar way to mobile apps and public network services. This calls for new operational tools and processes required to navigate in this new world.

Once all has been said and done, the chances are that the Internet infrastructure we use today will still be there in 2030. However, instead of being viewed as an open network that connects the world, it will have evolved into a transport layer that is primarily used for transmitting encrypted data.

The Internet is Dead — Long Live the Internet.

Written by Juha Holkkola, Co-Founder and Chief Technologist at FusionLayer Inc.

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More under: Access Providers, Broadband, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Data Center, DDoS, DNS, Domain Names, Internet of Things, Internet Protocol, IP Addressing, IPv6, Mobile Internet, Networks, Telecom, Web

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Posted on: August 16, 2017

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