As the internet becomes more and more central to society, it seems that threats to its health spring out of the woodwork in increasing numbers. Earthquakes at choke points such as what happened off Taiwan 18 months ago, uncontrolled explosions in traffic from video, malicious botnets run by international criminals or even countries, and now…. complexity.
A group of network engineers is looking at The Coming Crisis in Routing and Networking. Here are their bullet points:
- Exhaustion of IPv4 address space and its impact on the size of the forwarding table.
- Growth of the default-free FIB has moved beyond the capacity of many popular routers.
- “Churn” resulting from the acceleration of the growth in prefixes advertised in BGP is
reaching the point where processors in popular routers can no longer converge forwarding
tables between updates.
- The deployment of global network resources (storage and computing) has been forced into
NAT and application gateways, even in North America.
- IPv6-enabled networks don’t help until users can run IPv6-only stacks.
- Those deploying IPv6 for wide-area services have encountered problems involving both
loss of ‘reach-ability’ in some cases, and even faster growth of the hardware resources needed
Basically, this boils down to complexity. The growth in internet addresses and the routes between them is outgrowing the processing speed of the routers that send the traffic, the topology of the internet is becoming too complex for the tools we currently use. IPv6 can help some, but the pathway to IPv6 remains largely untrodden, undebugged, and untrusted.
But I can’t really take this ‘threat’ too seriously. Why? Because it is really just a matter of attention, the solutions are either known or are incremental improvements to existing processes and technology. Increasing processing power at the routing level is straightforward, and IPv6 will eventually reach critical mass one way or another when the need becomes unignorable. Unlike the problem of scaling transport to 100G, there don’t seem to be any hard-to-predict conceptual or technological breakthroughs required. The threat just needs to be close enough to get enough attention, and people will put resources into the solution.
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