[e2e] end of interest

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Sun Apr 20 07:56:37 PDT 2008

    > From: John Day <day at std.com>

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

Nah, good stuff.

However, as someone who is fairly dedicated to the concept of "look for
fundamentals, the invariants and be damned where it led", and who has also
tried to get some of that thinking into the network, let me offer you a
couple of decades worth of perspective from that particular seat.

It's damned hard.

There are in fact pretty good reasons for this. The old line about "updating
the Wright flyer into a 747 - while it's flying" captures a lot of it.

An unfinished note of mine (is there any other kind? :-) captures a slightly
different take on it, which is that communication networks have a property
which is not shared by editors, operating systems, etc, etc. That is that if
you come up with the world's greatest new editor, if you get a few people to
adopt it, they will love it, and more will join in, so eventually you get to,
say, 2% market share, and that works just fine. Invent a new communication
system, and get 2% of the market to use it, and ... very shortly you will
have 0%. The reason is obvious: the point of communication systems is to
communicate, and if you limit yourself to a small group of potential
communicatees, your communication system doesn't have lot of perceived/actual
value. A plain telephone that can reach everyone is a heck of a lot more
valuable than a videophone that can reach 17 people.

Which dumps us back into the Wright-flyer -> 747 problem ... which is not an
easy one. Electric outlet sockets, light-bulb sockets, etc look much the same
as they did a century ago - because interoperability with installed base is
giant millstone.

However, all is not lost.

I think for a long time there have been understandable and rational reasons
people were content to build more fabric wing. To start with, as the network
grew, people were so ass-deep in alligators they couldn't take the time to do
anything but build more fabric wing as fast as the sewing machines could crank
it out. Then we went through a deep cutback where there wasn't any money to do
anything anyway.

However, I think that as the field has matured, and people have enough
personal history in it to internalize some of these points, there is an
increasing understanding out there of some of the things you're talking about,

    > We take a 30 year old demo, patch and patch it, relying on Moore's Law
    > to save us from the hard problems.
    > ...
    > Sure there was some solid engineering and with Moore's Law we have
    > built something that the world has found amazing.
    > ...
    > 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.

And, moreover, I think (or perhaps this is just a hope that my desire is
turning into a perception) that there's a growing appreciation of the
*long-term value* of spending a little more resources now, to build something
(and I'm talking about architecture here, not hardware) that has a little
more flexibility and capability - and hence *durability*.

Of course, we still have to make the numbers add up (both $ and engineering),
but I think there's more interest now in 'doing the right thing'. Enough more
to make it happen? Well, we'll see. But for those who are interested, I have
a nice shiny-new metal wing concept for you....

    > The problem has been with academic research that seems to have gotten
    > the idea that university research is low risk angel funding .. Guys, it
    > is time that some of got back to doing real research, not just hot
    > topics.

Indeed. Some of the research I read about sure seems a lot like "how to build
a better fabric wing with the latest hot-glue technology".


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