[e2e] end of interest

John Day day at std.com
Sat Apr 19 21:17:19 PDT 2008

In the 1980s, people would ask me why I didn't know much about SNA. 
(For our younger readers, the then dominant data networking 
architecture.)  I usually replied, that I had enough trouble 
remembering all the right ways to build networks, without trying to 
remember all the wrong ways too.

That, in some sense, has always been what I have pursued.  Never 
assume, always question, look for fundamentals, the invariants and be 
damned where it led.  I wanted to know the "right" way regardless of 
whether IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, ITU, ISO, IEEE, or the IETF chose to 
adopt it.  At the very least, I would have a better idea what kinds 
of compromises I was making when I had to deal with "reality."  And 
who knows, you might find better ways of doing things.

I guess this puts me in the rationalist camp.  I have never been big 
on faith-based engineering (or science for that matter).  Some may 
wish to emulate Clavius, more concerned with protecting the faith 
than going where the problem leads, that is not for me.

Today, I look at the IETF projects;  the vast majority of "research;" 
and my reaction has a lot in common with my reaction to SNA long ago. 
We take a 30 year old demo, patch and patch it, relying on Moore's 
Law to save us from the hard problems. a  It bears a strong 
similarity to the late days of DOS, when what we need is Multics, but 
we would probably settle for Unix.

Then we pat ourselves on the back for what brilliant engineers we 
are.  When, in fact, we haven't done much at all.  Sure there was 
some solid engineering and with Moore's Law we have built something 
that the world has found amazing.  But as scientists, we have to be 
honest with ourselves.   What have we done?  What major new insights, 
breakthroughs, surprising results have we uncovered over the last 30 
years?  What have we done to consolidate, make it simpler?  Get at 
the fundamentals.  Ensure this thing is on a solid footing now that 
the world relies on it.

We know what is really underneath.  We could have used the public 
infatuation to buy ourselves some time, but it seems we have used it 
mostly to sun ourselves.   Having successfully ignored it, we now 
have a 35 year old problem finally coming home to roost. So here we 
are when we need breakthroughs and all we can do is come up with lame 
half answers and discuss how many engineers it takes to clean a 
slate.  And from the looks of it, we have forgotten how to do that 

Is this the problem of the Major Companies?  Hardly.  They are 
*suppose* to take a short term view and build product and keep 
customers satisfied.  The problem has been with academic research 
that seems to have gotten the idea that university research is low 
risk angel funding, rather than pursuing a deeper understanding. 
Laying the groundwork for the future, so that these really hard 
problems don't bite the engineers in the future AND more importantly, 
that the engineers know the fundamentals so that when these hard 
problems finally come down to the engineering they know what the 
right answer is suppose to be.  Guys, it is time that some of got 
back to doing real research, not just hot topics.

Well this wasn't suppose to be a screed, but it seems to have turned 
into one!  Ooops.  ;-)

Take care all,
John Day

At 19:15 -0700 2008/04/19, Fred Baker wrote:
>On Apr 19, 2008, at 4:12 PM, John Day wrote:
>>I might remind our readers that in 1970 none of us were worried 
>>about whether or not AT&T would use what we were doing.  
>>Admittedly, we were being paid for our trouble, but most of us were 
>>just interested in what would happen and what we would learn from 
>>it.  There is something amiss here.
>Thanks for saying that. I have been very disturbed by this thread.
>Cisco, my employer, and specifically the department I work in, funds 
>a fair bit of research into making things better. Reason: at the end 
>of the day, if things work better, people will buy more of our 
>products. Call that whatever you like; it is the fundamental 
>motivation of any Major Company to fund research. Now, if we're not 
>going to make things better, why fund the research?
>If your research isn't funded by a major company, then presumably 
>you hope that the outcome will be something different that Major 
>Company might have chosen. I came up the corporate side, not the 
>research side, but at the end of the day the success of whatever 
>company I worked for at the time depended on the notion that whoever 
>was the "Major Company" at the time was wrong. So far, I have been 
>mostly right.
>If your research was funded by a Major Company, then you are betting 
>that improvements to the present model are a good thing. 
>Paradoxically perhaps, thus far the things we have learned on this 
>axis have been useful as well.
>I'm seriously wondering where the bitter folks who hate the 
>businesses that made the Internet a worldwide communication 
>infrastructure are coming from. Do they hate the Internet? Would 
>they rather have an Internet that was undeployed for lack of 
>funding, and therefore the system they the say they dislike because 
>it is the last viable business standing?

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