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"Internet weather" and the net as a biological system.



The experience with online Transplant 2001 abstract submissions this year stimulated interest in the concept of "Internet weather". Are there regional "weather conditions" on the Internet that can slow down Internet transactions independent of bandwidth, and clockspeed/RAM of server and connecting machine?   It seems unlikely that there were not local factors relating to the bandwidth of the server we were connecting to for abstract submission, just as we are heavily affected by the operations of the excellent Communication and Network Services unit here at the University of Alberta  and its direct Internet connection.  Ideally for global abstract submission one should have at least two T-3 lines on two separate backbones, like PSI.net and UUnet, perhaps with mirror sites in Europe and Asia.

Nevertheless it is interesting to consider this concept of "Internet weather".  There is a fascinating online "Atlas of Cyberspaces" where one can spend hours on geography models and analogies.  The Internet weather  is part of that as are diagrams of the circadian rhythm and biology of the Internet including the important effect of the Superbowl! .  One can also find diagrams of every major Internet backbone.

The Internet weather is fascinating including the demonstration of much greater latency in major US cities than in Canada (shown on Canada map.)  However, the basic structure of the Internet first described in 1964 in that original "distributed communications" document suggests that concern with specific routing and local "Internet weather" should not be necessary.

If you think you might be affected by "bad Internet weather" you could test connectivity with traceroute lists and ping tests looking for packet loss.  Typically, there should be close to zero packet loss. 10%-15% packet loss would result in slowness, more than that would result in slowness, stalling (where the computer seems to sit waiting for the document to load) and other problems.

Ultimately in most situations it still is bandwidth (speed of connection), computer clock speed, and RAM that have the greatest influence on your Internet experience!

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