Evolution of the Edge and Issue of Fragmentation

Feb 22 2018

“The Internet will change from end-to-end to edge-to-edge.”

The Internet Society 2017 report- Paths to our Digital Future recognizes increasing development at the edge impacting the wider Internet ecosystem. Broadly defined, the edge of the Internet includes both the networks and devices within homes and enterprises, as well as the Internet service provider networks that connect those homes and enterprises to the global Internet. 

There’s shift in a sense that home networks are supporting a growing number of services that extend far beyond the traditional edge of the network. For example, an individual’s home appliances can participate as part of the regional electric power management system, health devices in the home can be connected into remote health monitoring systems, entertainment and personal application data can be stored remotely and accessed seamlessly on demand. These emerging services are delivered by finely-tuned infrastructure that includes specialized networks. This evolving edge is rapidly changing how individuals interact with the Internet, and offers the potential of new and exciting interactive applications and services.

Evolving Edge, however, raises challenges for the current general purpose architecture of the Internet. Growing complexity of specialized networks for purpose built services at edge may create independent islands of connectivity. Businesses to maintain their edge are establishing private networks and private domains to create control for their own business structures. This proliferation of “private” IP-based edge networks that don’t use the “public Internet” is going to increase by orders of magnitude. This could lead to fragmentation of the open, global Internet.

Spurred by increasing innovation at network edge, if specialized networks dominate the connectivity environment, this will create obstacles for innovation and the deployment of new end-to-end services and technologies.

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1 comment on "Evolution of the Edge and Issue of Fragmentation"

  • Raimo Kantola's picture

    Your fragmentation story does not convice me. Addressing is just a mechanism for packet forwarding. On top of it we the end to end service. Growth of the penetration of the end to end service is due to Metcalfe's law. The value of the network keeps growing because more people join and can communicate and they join because joining has great value to people. A mere question of addresses can not change the economics. There are ways to traverse NATs smoothly, make servers in private address space reachable. On the level of connectivity the network may seem as end-edge-edge-end network but in terms of most services it will remain an end-to-end network as before, do not worry.

    answered 23 Mar 2018 21:56