The Internet2 project, which aims to deliver second-generation Internet technologies, is gathering steam with Microsoft joining the initiative as an industry partner last week but just when businesses can expect to reap benefits from Internet2's work remains uncertain.
Internet2 is a partnership of 140 US universities working with industry and government partners, on 'pre-commercial' advanced Internet technology, including Ipv6 and multicasting, and applications.
David Gabo, director of technology at Cabletron Systems Australia, said he dared not estimate the time frame in which Internet2 advances would become commercially relevant and affordable "because of the unpredictable nature of the business and technology mix.
"For example, it has taken more than 10 years for FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface) technology to fail, yet Gigabit Ethernet is being widely deployed after a mere three or so years from its conception," Gabo said.
According to Gabo, Internet2's work on multicasting, quality of service and security would have the most impact for business communications.
"The present Internet does not offer a reliable transport," Gabo said. "Businesses cannot rely on such service for their core activities, and therefore are forced to build private networks or virtual private networks. Internet, by and large, is only being used for ancillary purposes -- not core business."
Gabo said the first commercial organisations to take advantage of Internet2's advances will be ISPs (Internet service providers) and network service providers.
"They are eager to add value to the bandwidth they sell to maximise their revenues as well as become profitable at last," he said.
The fruits of the Internet2 project are unlikely to see widespread global rollout for at least three years according to Graham Penn, general manager, research, International Data (IDC) Australia.
Internet2 advances are unlikely to be taken up fast due to the enormous size of the Internet, lack of coordinated effort on the 'Net and the "inertia factor," Penn said.
However, Penn believes that for most Australian Internet users, Internet2 initiatives are not critical.
For most organisations that want to start electronic commerce, concerns center on a lack of Internet-savvy staff and adverse customer perceptions of security on the 'Net, rather than the technical limitations of the Internet that Internet2 addresses, Penn said.
Ramin Marzbani, principal of www.consult, said that faster bandwidth promised by Internet2 is somewhat irrelevant to Australian organisations having problems paying for 2Mbit/s connections to the current Internet.
"If businesses can't afford the Internet today, don't talk to them about the faster bandwidth that Internet2 will deliver," he said.
"To be honest I'm not even sure Internet2 is relevant in the commercial world," Marzbani said.
Marzbani said he saw Internet2 as more of an academic research project than a business project at this stage.
Penn at IDC agreed that the aims of Internet2 largely cater to the academic community, and said that the achievements of the project will have to be adapted for commercial use, resulting in a time delay in terms of mainstream adoption.
Internet2 aims to continue the contribution of academic and government research networks which originally gave rise to the Internet.
Internet2's industry partners include 3Com, Cabletron Systems Fore Systems , IBM , Cisco Systems and Microsoft.
On Microsoft's move to join Internet2, Marzbani said, "Microsoft needs to get closer to universities -- they are the stronghold of Netscape Navigator and of anti-MS sentiment."