Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Network layer

In class lately we’ve been talking about the network layer. That layer encompasses lots of discussion points like addressing, multicast, and routing. I wish to discuss a few different things relating to the network layer.

There are lots of good ideas in the area of routing that we’ve read lately—ideas that are almost too obvious once you read them and then you wonder why nobody thought of them from the beginning. The challenge then becomes implementation and deployment onto the internet. Mostly, I think we are in a bandaid mode. Take IPv4 address exhaustion for example, NAT was invented to mitigate that process. Addresses are still running out. I don’t think that IPv6 is going to be our magic bullet that will fix all our problems. First, it seems that all major modern operating systems are still defaulting to some form of IPv4. Shouldn’t they be defaulting to pure IPv6 first to even remotely start showing some semblance of wanting the world to move to IPv6? Second, I wish more thought would have been put into the actual addresses themselves. I know that the major issue IPv6 is trying to solve is the address space size, but the use cases predominantly lie in referring to resources by name, not some number. It would be interesting to search that space further to see if there could be a way to devise some kind of name to address hashing function. DHTs kind of already do this. Also, I know companies that will never move to IPv6 internally because the addresses are not memorizable. IPv4 has a huge advantage over IPv6 in that regard. Sure DNS is there to work with that, but, honestly, we shouldn’t need DNS. All DNS really is is the world filling a real need that wasn’t met in the original design of the network layer.

In the routing world, BGP tables are growing large and cumbersome. There are lots of good ideas on new routing protocols, but when trying to find out if any of them have taken hold (by looking at IETF’s website), we found that all that they’re trying to do is change BGP. Not to complain, but if something isn’t working because of a flaw in the original design, patching only pushes the problem under the rug, it doesn’t fix it.

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