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Internet Infrastructure

Niagara Fall
(Niagara Fall, Canada - Wei-Jiun Su)


Preparing for the All-IP Future



- Internet Architectural Principles

The Internet, and consequently its backbone networks, do not rely on central control or coordinating facilities, nor do they implement any global network policies. 

The resilience of the Internet results from its principal architectural features, most notably the idea of placing as few network state and control functions as possible in the network elements, and instead relying on the endpoints of communication to handle most of the processing to ensure data integrity, reliability, and authentication. 

The Internet and its architecture have grown in evolutionary fashion from modest beginnings, rather than from a Grand Plan. While this process of evolution is one of the main reasons for the technology's success. 

The days are gone when service providers rolled out multiple transport networks to support different services. You’re not just providing a service, you’re building a platform to feed the insatiable appetite of a new breed of customers and devices. With IP traffic to reach 4.8 zettabytes by 2022 you need to be ready. 

A modern transport network is converged and capable of concurrently supporting: fixed and mobile consumer broadband, enterprise, small and medium businesses, retail and wholesale business models, real-time immersive experiences, and IoT connectivity and value-add. 

In addition, the high degree of redundancy of today's network links and sophisticated real-time routing protocols provide alternate paths of communications for load balancing and congestion avoidance. 

The Internet backbone is of multiple, abundant networks owned by numerous companies. It is typically a fiber optic trunk line. The trunk line consists of many fiber optic cables bundled together to increase the capacity. The backbone is able to reroute traffic in case of a failure.

Please refer to [Architectural Principles of the Internet (RFC 1958)] for more details.


(Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications)

- Internet Infrastructure

One of the greatest things about the Internet is that nobody really owns it. It is a global collection of networks, both big and small. These networks connect together in many different ways to form the single entity that we know as the Internet.

Since its beginning in 1969, the Internet has grown from four host computer systems to billions. However, just because nobody owns the Internet, it doesn't mean it is not monitored and maintained in different ways. 

The Internet Society, a non-profit group established in 1992, oversees the formation of the policies and protocols that define how we use and interact with the Internet.

Internet infrastructure, including transmission media such as fiber optic cables, satellites, microwave (line of sight) antennas, routers, aggregators, repeaters, load balancers, and other network components that control transmission paths. 

Internet infrastructure is designed, built, and operated by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Verizon and AT&T. When a business hires an ISP for internet access, the ISP typically connects to data center infrastructure within a dedicated and secure building space.


- The Internet Backbone

The Internet backbone is a conglomeration of multiple, redundant networks owned by numerous companies. It is typically a fiber optic trunk line. The trunk line consists of many fiber optic cables bundled together to increase the capacity. The backbone is able to reroute traffic in case of a failure. The data rates of backbone lines have increased over time. 

Fiber-optic cables are the medium of choice for Internet backbone providers for many reasons. Fiber-optics allow for fast data speeds and large bandwidth; they suffer relatively little attenuation, allowing them to cover long distances with few repeaters; they are also immune to crosstalk and other forms of electromagnetic interference which plague electrical transmission. 

  • [CNN Labs]: What the Internet looks like: The undersea cables wiring the ends of the Earth. The information age is powered by thin fiber-optic cables buried in the sea bed, spreading between continents to connect the most remote corners of the planet. These great arteries account for practically all of our international web traffic, and each one has been logged by Washington research firm Telegeography in its interactive Submarine Cable Map 2014. (click here to find out more).
  • [Vox]: 40 maps that explain the Internet: The internet increasingly pervades our lives, delivering information to us no matter where we are. It takes a complex system of cables, servers, towers, and other infrastructure, developed over decades, to allow us to stay in touch with our friends and family so effortlessly. Here are 40 maps that will help you better understand the internet — where it came from, how it works, and how it's used by people around the world.
  • [DataCenter Map]: Global Internet Exchange Points (IxPs) - "On the map below you can see an overview of internet exchange points (IXPs) around the world, zoom in and click on a city marker to see the internet exchange points available in the city." 

    - Routing Technologies and Process

    Routing is the process of selecting and defining paths for IP packet traffic within or between networks, and the process of managing overall network traffic. 

    Large autonomous networks or the Internet may provide thousands of possible routes between destinations. As networks continue to grow in size to support mission-critical uses, routing becomes increasingly important and complex. 

    Understanding the network travel paths of internal and external traffic can help administrators identify sources of latency and provide workarounds. 

    The routing process begins when software on the host device uses the packet's content, destination, or purpose to select possible routes from a routing table. A routing table is a repository of all routes to all destinations used by a network. 

    Routing tables can be created manually and "learned" by software as it observes network traffic, or they can be built from routing protocols.

    Simple print jobs can be transmitted using static routing, where the host inserts a previously used route. Dynamic routing allows packets to be routed contextually based on network conditions or factors such as reliability, performance and security requirements.

    Each path segment in the network has a metric assigned based on these factors. These metrics are shared with the host and other nodes, stored in routing tables and used for path selection.

    A node is any device connected to a network, such as a switch or router.


    - Future Internet - Future Advances and Emerging Issues

    As the internet turns 50, the technology is only picking up steam and continuing to reinvent many aspects of our lives, from the way we do business, and the way we find dates and jobs, to the way we run for political office. 

    The spark of the Internet was lit in 1969, but the Internet really began to transform our lives in the late ‘90s to early 2000s. The next 50 years may bring pervasive connectivity, brain-computer interfaces and walled-off areas of the Internet.


    [More to come ...]



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