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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Stakeholders celebrate silver jubilee of TCP/IP standards

Quarter of a century ago, some founding fathers of the Internet Protocols toiled endlessly to develop and standardise the network-of-networks thereby facilitating seamless data packet transmission, REMMY NWEKE reports that undoubtedly their efforts have not been in vain.

IN the early 1960 when some experts were tinkering on what today has become network-of-networks, little did they envisage the importance and evolution, thereafter.

Although, the history of the Internet could be traced to the first recorded description based on memos authored by J.C.R. Licklider of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), according to “A brief History of the Internet” as at August 1962, on which he raised the issue of ‘Galactic Network’ concept.

The initial concept was also recorded by the aforementioned same authors, as having originated through the growth of ARPANET.

But a new phase cropped up with the decision of the founding fathers of the Internet, Mr. Robert E Kahn to dig further by developing a new version of the Protocols, that hitherto existed, that is, the Network Control Protocol (NCP) into what is today referred to as an open-architecture network environment.

Nowadays, this open architecture is referred otherwise as the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).

Experts said that the difference between NCP and today’s TCP/IP has been that while NCP is inclined to being the spanner on the device driver, TCP/IP remained predicted to be more of a communications protocol.

Origin of Internet cannot be complete without notable inputs by Messrs Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, late Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, and Stephen Wolff.

Rules of Kahn theory
For Mr. Kahn, there are four rules that should characterise the TCP/IP procedure; as each network must be built to be distinct thereby standing alone without any intra-netting changes to achieve this concept of stand-alone.

The number two in Kahn’s lead theory of TCP/IP was that communications would be on a best effort basis; hat is, if a packet fails to get to its destination, it should have the option or chance of retransmission without distraction of any kind to the packet.

On the third layer of this protocol, Kahn had canvassed that the evolution of routers also known as gateways in connecting the networks; without retention of packet assumed information concerning the passages through them, thus simple and non-complicated.

The last but not the list on the protocol theory established by Kahn, and friends was that there would be no global control of the operations at all levels.

This last theory, obviously gave impetus to the progression of today’s free and open source software (FOSS), despite other issues based on preventive algorithms to avoiding packet lost of potential disabling communications so as to enable successful retransmission of source eventually among others.

Standards for life
However, on September 26, 1981, the TCP/IP, was formally published in the RFC 791 and 793 as a mark of standardization, gave credence to these two key protocols that is, nowadays described as determining factors behind data transmission over the Internet.

Looking back on these protocols, Internet experts noted that the duo of Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn among others must be singled out for their efforts and painstakingness in developing these standards.

The Internet Society (ISOC), a Geneva-based not-for-profit organisation, speaking through its communications manager, Mr. Peter Godwin, recalled that the documents of these standards were published on RFC 675 in December 1974 by Cerf and co-authored by Carl Sunshine and Yogen Dalal.

While subsequent documents – RFC 791/795; obviously benefited from inputs by the likes of Dave Clerk, Jon Postel, Bob Braden among others.

Internet yet to mature …
Chairman, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Mr. Brain Carpenter, while reacting to the silver jubilee of TCP/IP evolution, said, it could come of age but not yet matured.

“We can’t yet say that the Internet is mature, but it’s a great tribute to its pioneers that the two most basic specifications that were published a quarter of a century ago are still largely valid today,” he said, stressing that the Internet Protocol (IP) version 6 standard will do well too, as the journey to better Internet access globally goes by.

Noteworthy is that the RFC series launched in 1969 by Steve Crocker at the University of California, Los Angels (UCLA) and of course, he said, edited for many years by late Mr. Postel, continues today as the public archive of the Internet’s fundamental technology.

Since 1977, it has been hosted by the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI), whereas ARPA support ended in 1998, at which time the ISOC took over providing the funding for the publication of Internet standards; having been founded six years earlier, even as ISOC recently extended its support to include other areas critical to the open development of Internet standards.

Also evaluating the standardization of TCP/IP 25 years afterwards, the Secretary General, African Internet Service Providers Association (AfriSPA), and Internet Consultant, Mr. Eric Osiakwan, said that these protocols have shown they work and since it has no major breakdown, should remain undeterred.

In his words, “the TCP/IP framework works and being active for the past 25 years so in my opinion, if it is not broken why fix it.”

On the way forward, he enjoined the global populace and precisely Africans to keep up the beat by optimising it and even find better ways of using it until something totally new and better is invented.

President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, was not left out in commending the inventors of TCP/IP, saying that although they did not anticipate the growth it has achieved in recent years, but has surpassed all predictions.

He also invited more Nigerians to embrace the Internet as a medium that could change their lives for better, especially when they are positive about life.

Conclusion
Despite that the cost of having Internet access has remained high, the urge to belong to the group of Internet users and enthusiasts, has kept the standards going, more especially in developing countries where it has been discovered as a way of bridging the information gap across the north and south.

At the same time as, honour must be given to whom it is due and the founding fathers spirit, evident in the likes of Messrs Cerf and Kahn, cannot be wished away or over-emphasised, therefore, it will be not in vain; as the world gets closer with this innovation.

Keep networking.

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