IAB to Address Concerns About Internet Routing Scalability

An e-mail from Leslie Daigle, chair of the Internet Architecture Board, crossed my inbox tonight through the IETF-announce list (excerpted below) that brought back memories of the mid-90s and the Internet growth explosion that spurred the deployment of NAT (Network Address Translation) devices, the shift in large scale Internet routing from a “Classful” system to a “Classless” system (called Classless Inter-Domain Routing, or CIDR), and fueled the (relatively) quick development of IPv6. The conditions are somewhat different from decades ago, but some of the solutions are the same. If you are interested in how the guts of the internet work, read on. I’ve expanded organizational acronyms and linked to documents and other helpful bits; this stuff is fascinating (in the same way that one can walk into the machine room and gaze in amazement at all of the lights blinking in just the right way to tells you it is all working together just fine).

To: IETF Announcement list <ietf-announce@ietf.org>
From: Leslie Daigle <leslie@thinkingcat.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2006 20:58:05 -0500
Cc: iab@ietf.org, iesg@ietf.org, ram@iab.org
Subject: Routing & Addressing — activities

The recent IAB [Internet Architectural Board] workshop (see draft-iab-raws-report-00) established that a significant fraction of the Internet operations community and their equipment vendors believe that we face a scaling problem for routing in the core of the Internet, on a worrying timescale. They further believe that timely action is needed.

Enough evidence was available to the workshop to convince the IAB and IESG [Internet Engineering Steering Group] members present that the problem is real, even if the timescale and details are debatable, and that the solution will lie in certain specific areas mentioned below. It is also evident that the Internet community has everything to gain if efforts in the IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force] and IRTF [Internet Research Task Force] are closely coordinated with those in the operations and vendor communities, and much to lose otherwise. While these problems are pressing, we believe there is time for a coordinated approach.

Therefore, the IAB & IESG have worked together to identify key paths for progress in discussing and resolving this problem, and have agreed to establish an advisory group for coordinating information flow and awareness of activities….

We note that although this topic is of primary concern to backbone network operators and their equipment makers, many other parts of the community have an interest. These include other ISPs [Internet Service Providers], enterprise network operators, mobile operators, server and host software makers, and standards development organizations other than the IETF.

The memo goes on to outline how these groups will solve the problem, so reading it give a pretty good indication as to how the major technical pieces of internet engineering consensus actually happen. No answers are offered yet, so presumably this is a pretty big problem with no easy answers. It may not affect our lives directly, but it might be something to look out for so you recognize it if it passes by you.

(This post was updated on 19-Jan-2011.)