Frequently Asked Questions

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With the Infranet Initiative moving rapidly forward, the Infranet Initiative Council recognizes the need to provide timely information on the group's activities. In response, an Infranet FAQ has been created to provide answers to recurring questions about the Infranet Initiative. In addition, a selection of white papers, testimonials, and other materials are available.

What is an infranet?

An infranet is a public network that combines the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet with the assured performance and security of a private network. Ultimately, service providers will connect infranets together to create a single, global meta-network capable of carrying ALL communications. Infranets will provide important benefits across the service delivery value chain.

  • Infranets will enable any customer application to automatically request the level of security, quality and bandwidth it requires from the network.
  • Infranets will provide dynamic assurances - delivering services with the level of performance and security required by each customer application.
  • Infranets will support and reward the extension of advanced services, such as content distribution and high performance virtual private networks, across the global public network - well beyond the confines of one physical network.

What exactly is The Infranet Initiative?

The Infranet Initiative is an industry call-to-action to develop the client-to-network (I-CNI) and intercarrier (I-ICI) signaling solutions required to deliver to all customers (consumers and businesses) a rich communications experience via public networks.

What exactly is the Infranet Initiative Council?

The Infranet Initiative Council (IIC) is a team of industry leaders focused on driving the development and implementation of infranets. This organization is comprised of technology leaders from across the industry, including network service providers, network equipment vendors, and application and software vendors.

For a complete list of Infranet Initiative Council Members, please visit:
http://www.infranet.org/about/members/

How is this different from the Internet?

Although the Internet has changed all our lives, it was simply never built for commercial use. It can only function in two dimensions: connectivity and bandwidth. Infranets will offer assurances in multiple dimensions: quality, reliability and security without compromising the connectivity and bandwidth dimensions.

Isn't this the same thing as consolidation?

No. Convergence (or network consolidation) of all communications onto a single IP network has not yet happened, because there is no one IP-based network that can provide the multi-dimensional assurances necessary to support true convergence. Infranets, by bringing all of the required dimensions - global connectivity and bandwidth, quality, reliability, and security - to one network, will provide for genuine network convergence.

How are infranets different from VPNs?

There are two types of VPNs. VPNs based on premises equipment that initiates tunnels across the Internet can - and do - provide global private connectivity. However, mission critical, high expectation applications are rarely entrusted to these services, because these applications require assurances in dimensions - quality and reliability - the Internet does not address.

VPNs based on provider equipment standards, such as RFC2547 bis can - and do - provide quality, reliability and security assurances. However, these assurances are realized by building out completely separate facilities to serve higher expectation application traffic - increasing service provider complexity and cost. Additionally, the geographic extension of these VPN services is very constrained, because IP-based standards are able to facilitate assured performance across multiple provider networks which do not exist today.

What's the alternative to infranets? What if they never come to fruition?

The industry does have a choice. We can collaborate to address the challenges identified in the infranet vision, or we can continue down the path of multiple, disparate, application-specific public networks. It's increasingly clear that the first of these choices is the most economically viable. The infranet approach also has a very strong precedent - the PSTN. The sustained economic success of the PSTN demonstrates the power of industry collaboration on a single set of standards. The PSTN also demonstrates how a network that combines global, any-to-any connectivity and performance assurances can enable a diversity of follow-on, unanticipated applications and services. For example, without the PSTN and the dial-up services it enables, the Internet would likely remain a research and education tool.

If infranets, or something like them, do not come to fruition we will continue to experience the economic consequences of multiple, disparate approaches to network services.

What standard interfaces need to be developed?

  • The Infranet Client-Network Interface (I-CNI) defines a generalized and standardized set of mechanisms by which a customer's chosen application can automatically and dynamically request the level of security, quality and bandwidth it requires from the network.
  • The Infranet Inter-Carrier Connection (I-ICI) defines a set of mechanisms by which selectively open connections can be established between carrier networks. These connections will support and reward the delivery of advanced, any-to-any services, such as content distribution and virtual private networks, across the global public network (that is, beyond the confines of one carrier's own physical network).

Are there any standards today for this, or any that can be adapted to it?

In the case of the I-CNI, there are a number of pre-standard mechanisms used by different applications. The Infranet Initiative will look to provide a standardized set of mechanisms supporting the broadest possible application set.

In the case of the I-ICI, the current inter-connect standards for IP do not support the delivery of high expectation services across carrier network boundaries. There are a number of existing standards - most notably in the telephony domain - that are able to do this and provide for revenue settlement between collaborating carriers. To minimize complexity and to accelerate development, we anticipate that the I-ICI will heavily leverage any relevant, existing standard.

Do we really need more standards, or yet another standards body or industry forum?

The Infranet Initiative is not intended to create another standards body or industry forum. Its objective is to focus the industry on the need to develop mechanisms to address the shortcomings on the Internet. These mechanisms will be presented to the appropriate existing standards body or forum for ratification and sanctioning.

What is the status of this standards work?

Neither the I-CNI nor the I-ICI standards exist today and we are in the early stages of outlining a framework for their development. We anticipate that in order to minimize complexity and to accelerate development both the I-CNI and the I-ICI will heavily leverage any relevant existing standard.

Isn't this already happening in other places, like the MPLS Forum?

There is no current activity in the MPLS Forum directed towards comprehensively addressing the objectives we have outlined for the I-CNI and I-ICI. However, it is very likely that work underway in the MPLS Forum will assist development of either the I-CNI or the I-ICI.

Which industry forums will support the Infranet Initiative?

There are a number of industry forums whose work will assist development of the Infranet Initiative's I-CNI and I-ICI. These include the DSL Forum, the MPLS Forum, the Broadband Content Delivery Forum and perhaps the ATM Forum.

For more information:

Additional information and details can be found at the following URLs:

Infranet Press Release
The Infranet Initiative [pdf 129kb]
Inter-Carrier Capabilities for IP/MPLS Networks Solution Brief [pdf 388kb]