A testing ground for tools to defend the Web

Friday, 24 October 2003, 11:51 AM EST

A consortium of university and industrial scientists has created a computer network designed to test a new generation of tools that may one day lead to a smarter, more secure Internet that can spot problems like congestion and viruses before they affect individual computers.

In operation for about a year and growing rapidly, the consortium, called PlanetLab, has so far set up about 250 PC's around the world for its initial tests.

Unlike networks run by, say, MCI or AT&T, which consist of routers connected by high-speed links, PlanetLab is an overlay network, one that runs on top of the Internet by way of logic and software.

"We have a virtual network overlaid on the existing network," said Larry Peterson, a professor of computer science at Princeton who leads PlanetLab, "just as the original Internet was an overlay built on top of the telephony system."

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