Window on WANs

May 18 2010   9:04PM GMT

The Internet is broken — how can we fix it?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

Everyone who can connect to the Internet experiences it one time or another — a Web page is not found; a connection takes forever, or worse — disconnects. It’s times like these that the uninformed Chip the sales guy says the website is down, or the IT admin with a sense of humor says “Uh-oh. I broke the Internet.”

As it turns out the Internet is already broken and has been for some time, as was discussed in the 2-hour long panel discussion on “How to fix the Internet” at Future-Net last week.

Why did the Internet come to be?

Nemertes Research president and panel discussion moderator Johna Till Johnson pointed out that the Internet is the largest creation the human race has ever put together collaboratively.

Furthermore, Johnson said “the Internet was invented because people wanted it to be invented.”

The Internet was born purely out of our human desire to connect — not because of any government mandate or religious decree.

But because no one person or organization can own the Internet, and because of it’s incredible boom and rapid success, many issues arise that cannot be addressed quickly enough. No one person or entity can fix the issues.

The Internet is broken

What are these issues that break the Internet? The panelists ultimately boiled problems down into four factions:

Can the Internet be fixed?

Much of the conference was spent looking at ways to resolve the last point: IPv4 address depletion. NAT was out of the question, because, on top of it not being enough to stave off address depletion, it was also deemed “poor man’s security,” (let alone a nightmare for IPv6 transitioning).

A viable answer was IPv6, though it wasn’t the only answer. Much to my surprise, two other solutions — namely Cisco’s LISP and PNA — came up as considerable options. (See’s Is IPv6 a sure thing? blog entry for more on this.)

Although IPv6 was not the lone answer, it appeared to be the final answer. The panel — ranging from Mike O’Dell from New Enterprises to Fred Baker at Cisco Systems — all agreed that IPv6 really was the way to fix address depletion in the end.

This was not to say that they were satisfied with the answer.

Panelist Dave Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent Communications, quipped “We got IPv6 pregnant — now we’ve got to marry her.”

ARIN president and CEO John Curran explained part of the unhappiness toward IPv6 is that there are no new features. In IPv4 there’s IPsec for automatic security and DHCP. IPv6 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that IPv4 has.

IPv6 also only solves IPv4 address concerns. Bandwidth, security and routing scalability aren’t solved by IPv6 and, in some cases, are exasperated by it.

Who broke the Internet and can they fix it?

Ultimately, who’s to blame? The application developers for making “craplications;” the networking professionals for nating; the data center guys — “everyone’s to blame,” the conference panelists mutually concluded.

We all have played our part in breaking the Internet. Perhaps it’s time to collectively fix it… Now, if we only knew how…

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