Lawrence G. Roberts PhD - Beacon Board Advisor Biographies

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Lawrence G. Roberts, PhD

Beacon Board of Advisors

Biographical Info

Lawrence G. Roberts PhD (born 1937 in Connecticut) As one of four fathers of the Internet, Dr. Roberts shares the National Academy of Engineering’s prestigious Charles Stark Draper award with the other three – Len Kleinrock, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. Dr Roberts received the Draper Prize in 2001 and the Principe de Asturias Award in 2002 presented by the King of Sweden for the development of the Internet, along with his three colleagues.

Dr. Roberts was responsible for the design, initiation, planning and development of the world’s first major packet network, known today as the Internet. He is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on packet switching and network architectures.

Dr. Roberts received B.S., M.S., and PhD degrees from MIT. While at MIT in 1965, he created the first computer-to-computer network using a packet link between MIT and SDC. Based on that success, he moved to the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1966 as ARPA’s chief scientist, and began to architect ARPANET from 1967-73, in 1967 including the theoretical packet switching work by Leonard Kleinrock to expand the network to many nodes.

Dr. Roberts designed and managed the building of the ARPANET, the world’s first major computer packet network, over the next six years as chief program manager. The first four computers were connected in 1969 and by 1973, 23 computers were connected worldwide.

Packet switching proved very controversial to communications people. Conventional opinion then held that packet switching could never work. Many of the university computer research centers also felt the network would steal their computer power. However, Roberts’ team, in conjunction with contractor BBN, which assembled and installed the hardware, proved them both wrong and the network worked with much higher efficiency and utility than either group imagined. In 1971, in order to expand the utility of the network, Dr. Roberts wrote the first email application software, RD, to support listing, saving, forwarding and responding to email. This also became an instant success.

In his own words, Dr. Robert’s contribution was “designing, managing and building the first routed packet network, the ARPANET. The design required finding the optimal network topology, selecting the best technologies for the packet routers, writing the RFP spec, contracting and managing the development of the routers and the computer interfaces at each site, getting all the protocols designed and developed, and convincing all the universities to connect to the network. Also, and perhaps more difficult, getting Congress to fund the network, and fighting off the circuit-switching critics who said it [packet-switching] was impossible.”

In late 1973, Dr. Roberts left ARPA, turning the development over to Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, to found the world’s first packet data communications carrier, Telenet – the company that developed and drove adoption of the popular X.25 data protocol. Dr. Roberts was CEO from 1973 to 1980. Telenet was sold to GTE in 1979 and subsequently became the data division of Sprint.

From 1983 to 1993, Roberts was Chairman and CEO of NetExpress, an electronics company specializing in packetized fax and ATM equipment.

From 1993 to 1998 Dr. Roberts was President of ATM Systems, where he designed advanced ATM and Ethernet switches with QoS and Explicit Rate flow control. He proposed Explicit Rate to the ATM Forum in 1994 and spearheaded its development into ATM Forum recommendation TM 4.0 in 1996. He has also led the development of a protocol for ATM over Ethernet called Cells In Frames.

Dr. Roberts became president of ATM Systems Div. of Connectware Inc. in 1997.

In 1999, Dr. Roberts undertook to redesign the IP router (not the protocol) to route flows, not just random packets, to support high Quality of Service. (QoS) flows across the IP network. To do this he founded Caspian Networks which built highly capable flow routers that accomplished the goal of ATM quality QoS compatibly over IP networks. These routers were aimed at the network core and started deployment in 2003 for QoS sensitive applications like video conferencing and P2P traffic control. However, this first generation of flow routers was large, expensive, and did not take advantage of many simplifications that were possible. Thus, Dr. Roberts left Caspian in 2004 in order to create a more efficient and economic flow management system.

In 2004 Dr. Roberts founded Anagran Inc. Realizing that the output queue design of packet switches and routers was causing major delay, packet loss, and unfairness, and   he designed a new concept of flow management where each flow is precisely rate controlled at the input rather than randomly at the output. The flow manager concept only required 20 percent of the power and size of a L3 router, virtually eliminated queuing delay and packet loss for both file transfers and streaming media, optimized network utilization, and greatly  improved fairness. Thus, instead of the prevailing concept that Quality of Service (QoS) would increase the complexity and cost of a network, the QoS could be greatly improved with less complexity while at the same time reducing network cost by eliminating the need for overcapacity.

Dr. Roberts is currently serves as CEO of Anagran, Inc. As a serial entrepreneur whose innovations have been financed under conventional VC fund terms, Dr. Roberts intuitively appreciates the distinct benefits of the Beacon IPO Express.

Today he lives in Silicon Valley.

Categories: Board Advisors
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