Koskinen: Net's Y2K problems will be localized and limited

Koskinen: Net's Y2K problems will be localized and limited

The Internet's backbone, major access points and root servers are ready, year 2000 czar John A. Koskinen says.

Internet's distributed nature makes it impossible to accurately track readiness, industry experts say

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The core of the Internet'backbones, major access points and root servers'will weather the year 2000 transition without problems, said John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion.

But the Internet's distributed nature, with as many as 10,000 service providers, 200,000 networks and 175 million users, makes it impossible to rule out local problems, he added.

Koskinen made his comments at a news conference held last week to disclose a July assessment of year 2000 readiness.

'We're comfortable with the protocols; we're comfortable with the root servers,' Koskinen said. 'The basic backbone we are comfortable with, on a global basis. Ultimately Y2K is a local issue.'

Both sides

Distribution is both a strength and a weakness. It makes the Internet resilient and redundant enough to work around problems that crop up daily as traffic routes through millions of possible links. But the number of links makes it impossible to track readiness with any accuracy, he said.

There is little evidence that individual network and service providers are unready for the new year, Koskinen said. Conversely, he said, network and service providers aren't saying whether they are ready.

Any problems will be local and of limited duration, predicted Barbara Dooley, president of the Commercial Internet Exchange Association of Herndon, Va.

'Customers who lose access on Jan. 1 might think the entire Internet crashed,' Dooley said. 'It won't.'

She said that the Internet, which has experienced most of its growth since the late 1980s, is not saddled with the problems of older legacy systems and that its major components are less vulnerable to date problems.

The 13 root zone servers that direct traffic'most of them in the United States and one each in Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom'are year 2000-ready, she said.

At major network access points, congestion is the likeliest problem as traffic gets rerouted around local holdups during the heavier-than-normal use expected at year's end.

Backbone providers are cooperating to minimize the congestion, Dooley said.

At the software level, the IP suites, which deal more with milliseconds than with years or centuries, should be unaffected, said Don Heath, president of the Internet Society of Reston, Va.

'Real-time software is not something that cares about these time scales,' Heath said.

Any data that is corrupted during transmission at the changeover will likely be corrected and retransmitted automatically, he said.

But farther out from the Internet core, there is less assurance that everything will proceed as usual.

The Internet must work around local problems every day, and problems on Jan. 1 will be no different, Koskinen and others said.

Koskinen said the news conference was held not so much to reassure people about the Internet's robustness as to remind them of the need to prepare the distributed elements that are maintained by individuals and small organizations.


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