For Internet3, Look to the Stars

December 1st, 2008 by · Leave a Comment has a fascinating article about NASA’s implementation of the internet in space.  It never really occurred to me before, but with many vessels and satellites out there sending or relaying data and the many earth locations receiving and processing it, obviously NASA has its own uses for networking.  But out in space where the distances are, well, astronomical, and the lag times are measured in minutes and hours, it turns out that TCP/IP just doesn’t get the job done.  The handshakes are too frequent, the conversations between routers and endpoints are too ‘chatty’.

So NASA is putting effort into something called Disruption Tolerant Networking, or DTN.  With DTN, routers don’t just relay data, they also store it when necessary.  If a link gets disrupted, the bundles of data can be paused rather than dropped.  After all, if your network drops a packet incoming from Jupiter, requesting a new one may take a while.

While I am no specialist in networking protocols, I still find the whole subject fascinating and I think that whatever comes out of it will trickle down to solving today’s problems over time.  After all, you can already download DTN source code from SourceForge, it’s not like it’s top secret.  Networking protocols that are more resistant to disruption would be another way to handle the issues related traffic growth and congestion.

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Categories: Internet Traffic

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