The National Science Foundation announced today that two projects important in the transition to the commercial Internet have completed their basic missions ahead of schedule.
In April 1995 the NSF designated Network Access Points, or NAPs, (to pass messages from one network to another) and the Routing Arbiter (to find a path to each destination) to support the transition from the government-supported NSFNET to the commercial Internet. According to a recent review, these projects have proved that multiple network providers can work together in a competitive marketplace, and now may be scheduled for transition to commercial operations themselves.
"This program has been very successful in helping private industry to build the modern Internet," said George Strawn, networking division director at the NSF. "It is now time for us to focus on a next generation that goes beyond simple connections."
"In a way, this is like having your kid grow up and leave home -- this part of the project is now strong enough to make it in the real world."
The NSF played a key role in the development of the Internet. In the mid 1980s the Foundation created the NSFNET backbone, which served as infrastructure for the research and education community. The success of the NSFNET spread to the commercial world as thousands of new Internet service providers connected millions of new customers by exchanging traffic at network access points according to directions governed by routing arbiters. NSF decommissioned the NSFNET in April, 1995.
As part of the new architecture, NSF had partially funded four network access point projects:
- a New York NAP to Sprint
- a San Francisco NAP to Bellcore with Pacific Bell as the operator
- a Chicago NAP to Bellcore with Ameritech as the operator
- a Washington DC NAP to Metropolitan Fiber Systems, Inc.
The NSF also had two cooperative agreements for the routing arbiter. Merit Network, Inc. and the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute were funded for activities to include: promoting Internet routing and stability, establishing the network framework and policy databases; developing procedures to resolve problems between network entities; developing advanced routing technologies; providing simplified routing strategies; and promoting distributed operation and management of the Internet. The basic operational functions of the RA can now be shifted to the commercial marketplace as well, allowing investigators on the projects to focus on the next generation.
"The people and companies that handled these projects are to be commended for an important job well done," said Mark Luker, NSFNET program director. The NSF-funded operations of these NAPs and RAs can now shift to the commercial marketplace as their researchers focus on connections and routing for advanced networking. Both actions help NSF to move to the next stage, a stronger focus on the high-performance Internet of the future needed to support today's advanced research.