Lawrence (Larry) Roberts, who designed the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, has said that the current system of packet data isn't suitable for the uses to which the internet is being used currently. Rather than viewing data as packet it needs to be seen as a flow, and this will require fundamental retooling.
“The Internet is broken. I should know: I designed it,” he writes in the IEEE's Spectrum.
“Directing traffic in terms of flows rather than individual packets improves the utilization of networks. By eliminating the excessive delays and random packet losses typical of traditional routers, flow management fills communication links with more data and protects voice and video streams. And it does all that without requiring changes to the time-tested TCP/IP protocol.”
Traditional routing technologies are unsuited to modern applications like VoIP or video transmission he says because the routing protocols were never designed to handle that kind of traffic.
At present the problems are not serious because telecommunications companies have massively overprovisioned their hardware requirements and can just about handle the data flows. But Roberts estimates that this situation cannot last.
Instead he suggests viewing data flows are a contiguous unit for some applications, so that data used in video or voice communications for example is identified as such and routers carrying it drop less of those packets.
At the same time data such as peer to peer traffic can be given a lower priority, without the need for deep packet inspection that might intrude on computer user's privacy.
Roberts has formed a start-up company Anagran to market the new technology.