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Networld + Interop: Bandwidth, Security the Buzz Words

At Networld + Interop in Las Vegas this week, two dominant Internet trends have surfaced: On the one hand there's the familiar spiel that demand for bandwidth is surging at incredible rates, and on the other a new crop of security products that better integrate public-key infrastructure (PKI) systems to let businesses set up more sophisticated virtual private networks (VPNs).

In a keynote address at the show, Uunet Technologies CEO John Sidgmore said the Internet industry is growing more quickly than any other in history--with bandwidth requirements doubling every three and half months, yielding an annual growth rate of 1000 percent, it even outpaces the PC industry.

"No matter how you cut it, 1000 percent growth per year represents a scaling challenge that is unprecedented in history," Sidgmore said. "This is a world where we are building networks at a rate that no one has ever built them before."

Though some observers have suggested the scorching Internet bandwidth upswing will eventually slow down, Sidgmore--who projected that by 2003, Internet traffic will constitute more than 90 percent of all bandwidth in the world--suggested that current bandwidth needs reflect only new users coming online. Future demand, he said, will be driven by new high-bandwidth applications, such as "silicon cockroaches," IP-enabled devices that communicate with other computers, he said.

To meet the massive bandwidth demand, ISPs and telcos are upgrading their networks as quickly as possible and, to maximize capacity over existing infrastructure, are also trying new technologies, such as Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM), which can increase throughput over fiber-optic lines by 20 times or more.

"WDM is perhaps the most important single technology development in the past 15 years in terms of adding capacity," said Sidgmore.

He added that Uunet has also fed its need to grow by acquiring ANS and CompuServe Network Services last September in a three-way deal with America Online and CompuServe. Last week, Uunet executives said they have completed the majority of the work to integrate those networks, resulting in two new Internet divisions within WorldCom, Uunet's parent company.

Like WorldCom, Sprint's tremendous bandwidth needs have primarily been driven by new Internet traffic, said Fred Harris, Sprint's director of network planning and design. Using WDM-based equipment, Sprint will by 1999 have increased almost 90 percent of its network to handle 240 Gbps. "We asked, 'How do you handle exponential bandwidth growth over your existing fiber?' The answer is WDM," Harris said. More