Web site to monitor Internet traffic pulse

Researcher says he has created a Web site that tracks Internet traffic around the world

A University of Minnesota researcher said he expects to unveil a Web site in the next few weeks designed to track Internet traffic around the world.

The Minnesota Internet Traffic Studies (MINTS) site (check it out in coming weeks for more details about MINTS) will integrate with more than100 sites around the world -- some academic and others commercial -- that track network traffic, said Andrew Odlyzko , director of the Digital Technology Center at the University of Minnesota and a speaker at Tuesday's Internet Bandwidth Supply & Demand conference at Boston University, which was organized by Information Gatekeepers (IGI). In addition, carriers will share some of their network traffic numbers under nondisclosure agreements, so that traffic loads and patterns can be analyzed and shared, but without revealing individual carrier numbers, he said.

Odlyzko is a mathematician who spent 26 years at Bell Telephone Laboratories and its successors and who recently published a paper refuting Metcalfe's Law of determining network value. He said he hopes the forthcoming site will help to address such hard-to-predict things as where network demand will come from and how fast traffic is likely to grow. "The idea is that perhaps we can provide some insight into the development of the industry," he said. "The intent is to find the pulse of the Internet."

The project mainly will be used to measure the core of the Internet, not the edge, although Odlyzko acknowledges that's where a lot of the action is.

During his presentation, Odlyzko reviewed the history of network buildouts over the past 15 or 20 years, and noted that there is plenty of capacity. Now it's a matter of carriers and others figuring out how to make money off it. His research involves figuring out what impact new applications, like real-time video -- not just the streaming video that many carriers concentrate on today -- will impact network use.

Odlyzko's research shows that although network traffic has not been doubling every year, as was the case a few years back, it does appear to be doubling every 18 to 20 months. Carriers need to encourage customers to chew up even more bandwidth by teaching them how to use new applications, he said. While sometimes the small percentage of people known to hog large amounts of bandwidth are looked at as enemies of the carriers, Odlyzko says they actually might be the carriers' friends, in that through file sharing and other applications they encourage lower-volume-bandwidth users to pump up their network usage.

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Bob Brown

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