INTERNET CITY

B>Oh, we got it: The Washington Post's Digital Ink online service is on an offensive roll. If the full-page ad "Conception of a New Service" with the world playing the egg and individual mice playing sperm isn't tacky enough [Note to the marketing department: Benetton you are not], wait until you get a load of the new ad rate changes. Pre-Ink, "local" providers, including PSI, UUNet and Digital Express, were paying retail rates; the Post is raising them to general rates, more than doubling the price per column inch. Timing is everything?

Dinosaurs vs. mammals: Many big companies, including the regional phone companies, long distance phone companies, and monopolistic Microsoft want to be Internet players. Add the entrepreneurs trying to build companies from their basements or throw some access in along with their two-bit PC clones and it's a crowded ecosystem. Sooner or later less efficient companies will go under, and more tasty ones will be acquired. Who will survive, who will thrive? That's the $10 billion question.

We'll put our money on the emerging monopoly here in Internet City -- PSI/UUNet/DIGEX -- plus a side bet on Big Blue. History has demonstrated the failure of large companies moving quickly into a rapidly changing new market. Behemoths won't move as fast or as aggressively as a little guy, because their bureaucracy prevents them from quickly reacting. And the little guys can't afford to fail -- or they die.
Why Big Blue? Trust us, it has nothing to do with their quaint culture, where the big iron [Legacy system] people still insist a disk drive is called a DASD. Fact

Guaranteed to return to bite somebody's posterior: One of MCI's vice presidents had the hubris to state MCI, Microsoft and AT&T would "dominate" the online services market within two years. Let's see: MCI has no market share to speak of, Microsoft hasn't opened its network and may never if the Justice Department doesn't like it, while AT&T's Interchange is a big belly flop. Earth to MCI: The only way to "dominate" the industry at this point is to buy smaller providers, especially since the company still insists on charging $1,000 for registration of domain names -- $1,000 for a piece of E-mail?

Breakdown, shakedown: While IP numbers, the fundamental "phone numbers" of the Internet, continue to be snapped up bit by bit, the real problem lies not in our Class Cs (or lack thereof) but in our routers. The naive continue to worry about the lack of Class C address space as more people come on-line; the sophisticated are sweating the horsepower crunch in routers. A top-line router stuffed with 64 MB of RAM can manage a table of about 30,000 routes or paths to get from point A to point B. The more unique IP numbers in use, the bigger the routing tables and therefore the more RAM needed. In order to avoid a breakdown, the Internet Engineering Task Force adapted a short-hand scheme to announce routes. The CIDR scheme basically treats blocks of Class C network numbers as a group, rather than announcing each individual Class C as unique in order to avoid blowing the 64 MB routing tables.

To a hardware hacker, the solution is obvious: Build a mega-router that can swallow gigabytes of RAM. Why a "Cisco 9000" hasn't been rolled out by either Cisco or HP is a mystery. Until megarouters are deployed, CIDR shorthand forces the assignment of non-portable Class C addresses through a recognized network provider. Want to dump your provider? Simple: you give up your old address and your new provider gives you a Class C. The amount of pain is directly proportional to the number of machines you have plugged into the Internet. No portability of Class C addresses favors larger providers to lock in customer bases rather than permitting upstarts to come in and take away business. Not a bad scam, eh?

Internet City's intrepid reporter wants your tidbits on the hottest segment of Washington's infotech industry. E-mail with 'Tales of the City' in the subject header to technews@technews.com

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