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ATIS Works to Avert Web Control Battle

Carol Wilson
5/6/2014
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ATIS today is launching an ambitious process aimed at drawing web giants such as Amazon and Google into a collaborative effort to address network operator problems with the current use of the SPDY proxy to optimize web traffic. At stake is a fundamental conflict over who will control the process of optimizing web traffic and its treatment going forward.

The Open Web Alliance is a new group created by Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) that hopes to very quickly look at establishing a more open service optimization proxy, ahead of the IETF's likely move to standardize HTTP 2.0 in November of this year. And while ATIS is representing the network service provider community in its efforts, the OWA is intended to be open to all comers and hopes to attract the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Facebook , and Twitter Inc. , all of which are early users of the as-yet un-standardized SPDY proxy.

"We are actively reaching out to them and they are welcome," says Jim McEachern, senior technology consultant for ATIS. "We have a few people who have already indicated definite interest."

Among those already engaged in the OWA from the service provider community are Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA), HyperCube, LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Nokia Networks , Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), TDS Telecom , Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and ViaSat Inc. (Nasdaq: VSAT), but the list is growing, according to ATIS.

The issue at hand is the use of the browser-based SPDY -- or "SPeeDY" -- proxy, which was originally developed by Google in 2010 to speed up the web by reducing the latency of page loads compared to HTTP and has since been contributed to the IETF for use in HTTP 2.0. SPDY is embedded in many common browsers, including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer versions 8 and up, Amazon Silk and Firefox, and also used by a relatively small number of websites -- less than 1% of the total -- that happen to be the largest players. These SPDY-enabled sites, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter, represent more than half the Internet traffic on service provider networks, says Kevin Shatzkamer, distinguished architect of mobility, web, and media for Cisco.

Network operators are having trouble with SPDY-based web traffic because of the way the proxy encapsulates multiple traffic flows into a single encrypted tunnel, making all of that traffic invisible to the network, and in essence, disabling network-based services including firewalls, parental controls, policy management, traffic-shaping, and more.

In addition, the ability of content delivery networks to distribute traffic closer to the consumer is blunted because "There is no longer any value in distributing the content any further than a SPDY proxy is distributed," Shatzkamer says. Thus far, SPDY deployment is considerably less than that of well-established CDNs.

In launching the OWA, ATIS is stressing the potential negative impact on consumers of closed proxy tunnels but there's little denying the potential negative impact on the business models of network operators as well, as their ability to enhance their revenue-streams with value-added services would be seriously impacted.

McEachern says there are proxies service providers could implement as well that would have similarly negative effects on other web players, but that the better approach would be for all players to collaborate on a process that is mutually beneficial. He says:

    We need an open service optimization proxy that takes into account the fact that a number of stakeholders have relationships with end-users and we need to protect and recognize those relationships in whatever function that we deploy. We plan to dig into the specifics for what exactly that means -- what are the use cases for how it is deployed, what is the functionality that is required by those uses cases, what becomes the list of requirements for that open service optimization proxy.

As part of that discussion, the OWA also would talk about how to protect user traffic meta-data and determine who gets access to it.

All of this will have to happen in very rapid fashion, beginning with a kickoff meeting on May 14. To read more about the OWA and the proxy problem, check out this whitepaper, "An Analysis of the SPDY Protocol and the SPDY Proxy."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
5/6/2014 | 3:31:05 PM
Web Giants V. Network Giants
I am not an expert on Web protocols - far from it - but this seems to me to be shaping up as a serious argument between folks delivering the most content over the Web and folks building the networks that deliver that content. 
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