[e2e] About the primitives and their value (was: What if there wereno well known numbers?)

Pekka Nikander pekka.nikander at nomadiclab.com
Wed Aug 9 04:01:23 PDT 2006

>> Hence, IMHO, what is needed is some kind of (micro)economic
>> understanding of the different systems.  There will be at
>> least three different types of parties (senders, receivers,
>> network elements), with different interests and incentives.
>> The communication primitives, and the protocols implementing
>> the primitives, will regulate what kind of agreements the
>> parties will be able to negotiate and will affect the
>> relative negotiating power of the parties (cf. Lessig's
>> "Code".)  It would be great if we got the
>> "regulation-through-protocol-design" right enough.
> I agree with your observation, but does this really need to be  
> reflected
> in the protocol design, isn't it more an interface to the network type
> of question? I would agree that at lest some additional protocol
> machinery would be required for implmenting some of the expressed
> scheme.
> Finally, I think it heavily depends on the applications and  
> environment
> where the differnt types of primitives are useful. I'm not sure the
> "willing to offer and want to get" type of primitives  are the only
> useful ones, so various flavours of those might be the right way to go
> with the caveat of getting a pretty complex interface to the network.

I am trying to look at here primitives that are as fundamental and as  
simple as the current IP datagram service.  With raw IP, you send a  
datagram to the destination, and the datagram will go there if it can  
in the first case, independent on whether the recipient is interested  
in getting it at all.

For the current IP case, we do have additional protocol machinery to  
make this simple primitive possible: all the routing protocols plus  
all the local protocols such as ARP, NDP, and DHCP.  And then we have  
all the peering or transit agreements between the ISPs plus all the  
service agreements between ISPs and companies and consumers buying  
"Internet access".

Now, the current scheme creates an economic equilibrium where there  
are strong incentives for spammers and DDoSsers to send their  
traffic, imposing extra burden to the ISP in trying to protect their  
networks and their customers from unwanted traffic, and imposing  
extra burden to the end-users in trying to protect themselves from  
spam and other ill traffic.  It is even profitable for the spammers  
to spend quite a lot of resources in order to move rapidly from one  
ISP to another, in order to be able to continue their business.

Hence, we can see that the current protocol machinery and the current  
communication primitives, together with the associated agreement  
structures, create a certain kind of an micro-economic dynamic  
equilibrium, with very visible macro-economic consequences.

In a similar way, if we create a "Future Internet Network Design  
(FIND)" or "Next Generation Internet (NGI)", with new types of  
fundamental communication primitives and associated protocol  
machinery, we will create a new economic playing ground where new  
types of agreements will emerge.  That playing ground will eventually  
settle into a dynamic equilibrium.  And that equilibrium will  
eventually shift based on changes in other technologies and the user  
community, just as has happened to the Internet.

Saying the same in other words, people will always do whatever they  
can.  If we build a system where it is technically possible for one  
player group to gain extra profit by pushing costs to others, some  
people will do that, sooner or later.  Relatedly but not quite as  
badly, if we create a system where it is possible both from the  
technical and market-situation point of views for one interest group  
(such as the operators) to rip extra revenue from the other interest  
groups, they will do so.  Hence, the system design must not only  
consider the primitives but also the kind of ISP market place the  
supporting protocol machinery creates.  From my personal point of  
view, our unfortunate social responsibility is to slowly eat our own  
jobs by designing communication systems where the operators' ability  
for oligopolistic structures or for price differentiation is limited  
by the technically "open" or "fair" nature of the system.  Only that,  
as far as I can see, will minimise, over the long term, the  
communication costs paid by the rest of the society, leading to  
reduced transaction costs and increased effectiveness of the overall  

Hence, my dream is that we would be able to build such a new  
communication platform, with almost equally simple primitives than  
the current raw IP primitive, where the incentives, disincentives,  
and restrictions, as imposed by the system and protocol design, lead  
to a socially more desirable dynamic equilibrium than what the  
current one is.  However, in order to be able to do that, we have to  
understand how the protocol primitives and infrastructure protocols  
affect the user's ability to do things (like send spam), how they  
affect the structure of the peering, transit, and end-user  
agreements, what kind and how large transaction costs (including non- 
monetary costs) are desirable and tolerable, etc.  Unfortunately I am  
almost clueless there; I don't know how to analyse those relationships.

Anyway, as argued vividly by Larry Lessig from the OS and apps point  
of view, the code out there forms a kind of regulative or restrictive  
environment.  That argument applies very much here.  The kind of  
communication primitives and the underlying cost structure, as  
reflected in the inter-ISP agreements and made possible by the  
protocols needed for backing those agreements, affect very much what  
the end-users "can" do; that is, what is economically viable for them  
to do.

What comes to more complex networking interfaces, I think those  
should be buildable on the top of the basic primitives.  I have long  
time ago bought the KISS argument.  Keeping the base network as  
simple as possible keeps the costs down.

To clarify, I am not at all sure if "willing to offer" and "want to  
get" are the right primitives, but those are ones that currently seem  
to be gaining some mind share in the research community.


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