[Podcast] Failed Expectations: 40 years of network history

By on 8 Jun 2023

Category: Tech matters

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"the milkmaid" by Vermeer, as the original and a jigsaw

In this episode of PING, APNIC’s Chief Scientist Geoff Huston discusses the major themes from his recent blog post on ‘Failed Expectations‘.

The podcast ranges over the 40-year-plus history of how the current Internet became how it is now, and some of the ‘road not taken’ alternatives that were under consideration at various times. In this context, ‘failed’ does not exclusively imply ‘failed to function’. It encompasses situations where the technology was not selected and refers to the ‘failure’ to deactivate technology assumed to be temporary.

The story of IPv6 deployment is part of this mismatch of expectations and reality because nobody foresaw the 20-plus-year transition from 32-bit addresses to a world of 128-bit addressing.

IPv6 was designed to meet the needs of addressing at scale, but the emergence of a transfer model, continued improvement in Network Address Translation (NAT), and the deployment of Carrier-Grade NAT has perpetuated IPv4 addressing and routing, in a 32-bit number space.

Geoff shares firsthand knowledge of how the IPv4 Internet became the ‘little network that could’, refusing to go away quietly. He details the coordinated efforts by the IETF to evolve the IP protocol suite in order to address scalability and IPv4 depletion concerns, leading to the development of IPv6. He describes, in detail, the initial optimism surrounding IPv6 as a successor to IPv4 but acknowledges that its adoption did not match the anticipated momentum.

This episode of PING explores various factors that contributed to this and other outcomes in Internet folklore. It reflects on the lessons learned from these experiences and raises questions about the timing and necessity of transitioning to new protocols.

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