Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Functional Programming paradigm influence

The idea to work on the problem of trying to understand 'deep' the Net seems quite illogical for a person that is just joining the Networking community. The excuse I find for myself to doing such a thing comes from my previous research experience in Functional Programming. It was about a novel computing paradigm that its advance would be driven by cheap computing power implying distributed architectures and novel software paradigms. Imperative (classic) software was inadequate to program a massively parallel system and software costs were rising, hence programs should be constructed differently, they would be accompanied with their proofs appended to their manuals. This was the background framework that conditioned by meeting with the Net. Work duties demanded my deeper understanding. It was not just to configure some system or be a power user of email for example. I had to get under the hood and make things move.

Now I look at it, reality moved differently: the free software phenomenon (started by Stallman, strongly coupled with the phenomenon of internet) accumulated enough eyeballs to drop software costs and program the massively parallel beast that took various names like "arpanet", "internet" and "web". The cheap computing power meant for the Functional Programming supposed to drive novel architectures like thous of cpus arranged in cubical networks came about in the form of cheap supercomputers (aka linux clusters).

Of course, the in-secure programming methods, at present, does bring back the issue of costs due to software so the story of secure (quality) programming is not over yet. Turchin stated alound recently that REFAL is better than XML and tools such as XSLT seem to bear the influence from Functional Programming. Dave Farber also thought of Fuctional Programming for the Net by the name "active networks" in mid 90s. A lot of Functional Programming went to JAVA (certainly a Net programming language) like the concept of garbage collection. Guy Steele was the JAVA spec editor for example and this cannot be just a coincidence.

All and all I am saying is that Internet Systematics was not just a crazy idea but the direct influence of Functional Programming. The different levels (layers) of automation.

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