For some time there has been a recognition in academic circles that Internet Protocol is not the best way to carry most of the traffic on today's Internet. In 2003 the proposers of the 100x100 project reported:
First, we observe that for each class of backbone packet switched routers today, there is an equivalent circuit switch that costs about 75% less per Gb/s, consumes about 1/4 of the power, and is 1/4 the size. This is because a circuit switch does not process or buffer each packet; arriving data is simply mapped from an incoming to an outgoing circuit.
Our second observation is that new optical switching technology lends itself to circuit switching, whereas all-optical packet switches are not feasible because we canít cost-effectively process or buffer photons.
(Proposal document, section 4.1)
With packet switching, every packet has to contain all the "routing" information needed to identify its destination, and this information has to be inspected by every router through which it passes. With circuit switching, the routing information is sent separately from the data; software in the routers sets up the route and the data packets only need to include a "handle" identifying the route. The routing information can include much more detail, and be in a much freer format, than is possible when it has to be carried in every packet. If there will be a steady stream of packets, as when sending live audio or video, the routers can also ensure that the packets arrive at their destination in a steady stream, rather than being delayed by other traffic on the network and then arriving in bunches.
Until recently, it was thought that in the "real world" it was necessary to use Internet Protocol to be compatible with existing equipment, and "next generation" packet-switched networks could provide a service which was "good enough". Now, it is becoming recognised that a migration to something much more like circuit switching will be necessary, at least in the core of the network. ITU-T, the body which sets worlwide telecommunications standards, now recognises that:
telecommunications technologies beyond current IP oriented technologies will need to be developed
and is studying Future Networks, "which aim to meet future services and overcome the deficiencies of the current IP based networks". It has set up a focus group which reported from its July 2009 meeting that:
There was common understanding that the estimated target date for prototyping and phased deployment of Future Networks should roughly fall between 2015 and 2020.
ISO/IEC JTC1/SC6/WG7 is beginning development of the new network technology in 2010, and, like ITU-T, expects that over the period 2015-2020 Future Internet and IP-based networks will co-exist, with services migrating between them.
IEC PT 62379 is developing protocols that will allow applications to migrate to the new technology as it becomes available; click here for more information.
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