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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 20 - 19 dic 2012
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


The director‘s cut

When I was appointed director of the Institute for Informatics and Telematics (Cnr-Iit) in July 2008, I was aware that I was going to be heading up a very active and important institution, bound up in the relationship between applied research and advanced services in the Internet and related fields. The main service operated by Iit is the Italian Registry of dot it domain names.

Coming from a long and varied work experience, which began in 1972 at the Cnuce, I thought I already knew a lot about the Registry. In reality I had not imagined the complexity of managing this important service with national and international significance, nor was I fully aware of the high level of professionalism of its staff. In terms of its size and given its technical, organizational and legal characteristics, the Registry can rightly be considered a medium-sized company, integrated into the Italian National Research Council.

As soon as I took over the job, a significant portion of my time was thus devoted to managing the Registry, learning both technical and organizational details. At that time the system was 'asynchronous': operators and users of services had to create and/or modify domain names by fax. This method required an average processing time of about three or four days. Moreover, it was not free of manual errors, and there were technical and organizational problems that often further increased the service time.

We knew that the system had to be changed and modernized as soon as possible in order to respond as effectively and efficiently to the ever-increasing demands from users. For a variety of purely organizational reasons, the design and construction of a more modern system of registration took time. What acted as a catalyst to speed up the modernization of the system was an article in the Espresso on 17 April 2009, in which the Registry was accused of not being in step with other European countries and was consequently hampering the spread and development of the Internet in Italy.

Today this gap has been more than filled, as testified by the fact that we have the fifth biggest ccTld in Europe and we are tenth in the world by number of domains registered. To be honest, the criticisms in the Espresso touched a raw nerve: we could and we had to improve, our pride had been wounded. We dedicated our best technical forces to developing the new synchronized system for the registration of domain names under dot it. The new system was successfully launched on 29 September 2009 and by 21 October 2010 two million domain names had already been registered. In fact, it took about fifteen years to reach one million domain names (20 January 2005), and just five years to get to two million! Undoubtedly, a great result.

The transition to synchronous had some undesirable side effects, typical of changes in production systems. These impacted personnel in the Registry and, in particular, those in the Operations Unit. The total automation introduced by the new system for the benefit of stakeholders (Registrars), who could now register their domains directly online, meant that the services of about twenty people were no longer needed. There followed a long series of trade union negotiations aimed at safeguarding these human resources, who were given training which was organized specifically for them by the Registry. This was done in order to help them find a new job in related fields or to be relocated to other institutes in the National Research Council.

I must confess that this was one of the saddest and most stressful periods of my professional life: my efforts, many of which went far beyond the prerogatives and responsibilities of a director of an Institute of the Cnr, unfortunately, were not always successful, and were certainly not helped by the economic crisis.

But it is time to look to the future of the Registry which, in my opinion, should be characterized by greater efficiency and transparency of management. The Registry closely follows the technical and organizational standards in the industry, and actively participates in international groups such as the Council of the European National Top-Level Domain Registries (Centr). In addition, the collaboration with the associations of registrars should be strengthened, including through the important support of our Steering Committee.

The exponential growth of the Internet, its services and applications seems unstoppable and at times seems to border on science fiction. The Internet of 'things' is already a reality and will increasingly decline with the rise of 'Smart Cities and Communities', which will become a strategic element for the social, cultural and economic growth of humanity.

I can't make any long-range predictions of how Registries will be in 25 years: if they will still be based on Dns (or its natural evolution, e.g. Dnssec) or whether some new disruptive technology will relegate them to the bench. What is certain is that despite enormous capabilities offered by IPv6, the exponential growth of mobile devices and 'things' (e.g. sensors) will represent a major technological challenge.

The only certainty is that in 25 years I will be not the one to have the privilege and honour to lead this important strategic service, to whose main actors and actresses - the people who work here - I express my most heartfelt and sincere wishes for a bright and exciting future.

Domenico Laforenza


Fonte: Domenico Laforenza, Istituto di informatica e telematica, Pisa, tel. 050/315 2123, email domenico.laforenza@iit.cnr.it