Chamber team to seek root-server to boost high-tech here
By Sherri C. Ranta
The Internet and e-commerce group at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is looking for the next step in South Florida's quest to become a mecca for high-tech development.
With successful placement of an Internet network access point in Miami the Terremark Worldwide Inc. NAP of the Americas will open mid-summer the group is looking to secure the placement of an Internet domain name system root-server here.
A root server, in layman's terms, is a computer that directs Internet e-mail and website addresses to the intended target after translating them into a binary code.
The servers there are 13 in the world, say industry experts, 11 of them in the US store literally millions of Internet destinations.
Before development of the servers, connecting to others on the Internet meant users, mostly scientists and the military in the early days, used 10-digit numbers rather than addresses.
Hosea Rojas an attorney in Miami with Holland & Knight who specializes in computer, e-commerce and Internet law co-chairs the Internet and e-commerce technology infrastructure committee at the chamber. The committee, he said, is charged with looking at infrastructure as a way to support the Internet and e-commerce activity in the county.
Mr. Rojas said the group is in the early stages of investigating the possibility of a root-server in South Florida. Industry observers say it's years away.
Having one in South Florida would bring along with it a certain amount of prestige, Mr. Rojas said, as well as possibly trigger high-tech economic development.
Most US root-servers, he said, are in Virginia, the University of Maryland and the Silicon Valley in California, where they are surrounded by high-tech development.
"We are gathering the support of all the tri-county organizations like Internet Coast to get everyone onboard" much like the coalition of groups that worked to bring a network access point to Miami, he said.
In a very simple example, Mr. Rojas said, "if your personal computer cannot find Amazon.com you have to find a computer that can."
The local network, assuming there is one, may have it. If not, the computer will send a request to the Internet service provider's computer. If the computer cannot find the answer there, Mr. Rojas said, it sends a request to a root server, which maintains master tables to convert names to numbers to direct a message to the right place.
As the number of Internet names grows, he said, root-servers become more and more important. In the past, computer addresses were numbers that were stored in files that were periodically downloaded by users. Growth of the Internet made the old system obsolete, Mr. Rojas said.
The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is the international nonprofit that has technical oversight of Internet Domain Name System root servers.
Mike Palage, an Internet consultant recently returned from an ICANN meeting in Melbourne, Australia, said Miami officials should consider placement of a root server here a long-term objective perhaps three to five years away.
ICANN is in the process of launching a study to determine placement of future root servers, he said, and the organization has stressed that placement or reassignment will be based on what is technically best rather than political considerations.
"This is going to take a couple of years," Mr. Palage said. "It's too early to tell because of the fact that we will have two NAPs here lots of Internet traffic will be flowing here.
"On a technical basis, as Internet traffic increases it will improve the likelihood of Miami ranking well in any type of analysis, particularly as the city is viewed as the gateway to Latin America," he said.
In the short run, Mr. Palage said he will encourage the committee to look into securing placement in the South Florida region of a Top Level Domain Name Server a servers controlled by individual registry operators.
Such servers, in layman's terms, are a step down from a root server. They resolve specific top-level domain name address requests such as those with dot-com or dot-net as well as newly proposed names such as dot-biz. and dot-info.
The new domains are expected to be released in three to six months, Mr. Palage said.
While Mr. Palage applauds the chamber for its aggressive stance, he says seeking a top level domain name server for South Florida is a more reasonable short-term objective.