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New 'flow router' may save the Internet from collapsing under the weight of all your v-blog posts


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The prospects of a Future Inevitable Internet Collapse™ has some of our readers seriously freaked out. You know the type -- they live in places like Idaho and Montana, in fortified mountaintop retreats, where they hoard digital media like it was canned food in December 1999. And concerns over bandwidth aren't limited to a lunatic fringe -- no less august a publication than IEEE Spectrum has recently posted an article by Lawrence G. Roberts (who pretty much helped invent the modern router) in which he discusses the state of the Internet. According to Roberts, our current routers are still designed to handle much smaller amounts of data than they are currently pushing. Streaming data only works at all, he says, due to extreme over-provisioning -- "Network operators," he says, are throwing "bandwidth at a problem that really requires a computing solution."

One possible solution is something called "flow management." Instead of routing each packet individually, a flow router attaches an ID to each packet in a specific stream ("flow"). After the first packet is routed, each subsequent packet with the same ID is sent along the same route -- cutting down on time and on the amount of lost packets. Roberts' company, Anagran, has one such device on the market now -- the FR-1000, which he says consumes one fifth the power of a comparable (traditional) router, one tenth the space, and should reduce operating costs in GB/s by a factor of ten. And this, dear readers, may be the key to the survival of the Internet -- that is, until the robots get us.

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