[ih] Fwd: History of "accounts"
galmes at tamu.edu
Tue Feb 11 18:54:52 PST 2014
I recall a meeting at Harvard's Kennedy School sometime about 1990 or
so with people from several different countries discussing ways to
ensure that the net was not overcongested (if I can be forgiven the
It fascinated me.
Some of the speakers were from parts of the world where the net was
built around 64kb/s X.25 networks with a *relatively* strong notion of
accounting. At least at the X.25 layer, there were 'calls' and
They argued for the value of accounting. They were coming from a
mindset and reality in which resources were limited and careful
accounting and charging was seen as a means of avoiding congestion.
I say reality here to include the charging of the PTTs that dominated
their world. They could be forgiven seeing that PTT world as "the way
By the way, the very long distance intercontinental circuits were a
particular focus of concern at that time.
Most of the Americans in the room were fresh off the NSFnet effort in
which stoking the infrastructure with bandwidth (between 1987 and 1989
we'd seen the backbone bandwidth increase by a factor of 24 (56kb/s to
T1) and three years later would see it increase again by a factor of 28
They argued for highly scaled best-effort service aimed at avoiding
congestion by having lots of bandwidth.
Accounting mechanisms, in their view, would add more congestion than
it would remove.
The Internet of today, largely, reflect that American
experience/perspective. Sometimes it's cheaper to stoke bandwidth in a
simple network than to carefully account for usage in a more complex
Decades later that Internet approach (by no means purely or even
primarily American now) continues to work quite well.
What accounting there is is done at the "entrance ramps" -- with
local ISPs in various different contexts -- and not so much with respect
to the wide area infrastructure.
Let me not predict the future (especially in the post-net-neutrality
era), but I'm glad that the government agencies of 1990 didn't agree to
impose accounting at that time.
On 2/11/14, 6:40 PM, Jack Haverty wrote:
> On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 1:29 PM, John R. Levine <johnl at iecc.com
> <mailto:johnl at iecc.com>> wrote:
> There really is nothing new about job accounting for expensive
> equipment used for different jobs.
> Very true. Management is about using resources, and you can't manage
> what you can't measure. Fascinating discussion... it got me thinking
> about the Internet (this *is* the internet-history list).
> In particular, is The Internet the first and only "infrastructure"
> (widespread resource used by everybody) that has been developed with no
> associated mechanism for accounting? I can't recall a single protocol,
> packet header, or such mechanism, at least from the early days of
> 70s/80s, that had anything even resembling an "account" field to enable
> usage to be associated back to some specific "account".
> There were some attempts (I pushed on "usage accounting" back in the 80s
> but it got pretty much ignored), but I think nothing much ever developed
> ingrained in the Internet architecture. The culture of the 60s/70s/80s
> was simply against it, and the ARPANET started, and ended, with no
> accounting. Computers had accounting. ARPANET, and the Internet, do
> not. How come?
> I also can't offhand think of any other infrastructure without some kind
> of accounting or at least "feedback" mechanism to make usage visible to
> the user. Transportation, energy, etc., all have had such mechanisms
> from their early days. Anything that involves sharing a resource is
> likely to have some kind of accounting.
> I think this is changing now in The Internet, as usage skyrockets with
> video, and cellular carriers notice the costs of provisioning for use of
> such resources by masses of people as an everyday activity. Millions
> of devices that all seem to need their software upgraded daily is
> probably a factor too.
> Is this finally the beginning of Internet accounting? Is it A Bad
> Idea? And is the Internet the first or only infrastructure to make it
> this far (approaching 1/2 of the world population!) without any such
> /Jack Haverty
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