Quo Vadis IPv6 - Was: Re: [governance] IPv4 - IPv6 incompatiblity (was Re: Towards Singapore)

Karl Auerbach karl at cavebear.com
Thu Jun 16 19:02:16 EDT 2011

On 06/16/2011 02:30 AM, Izumi AIZU wrote:
> Or, what was the biggest reason/rationale not to make IPv6 compatible
> with IPv4....

IPv6 had a somewhat difficult birth back in the early 1990's.

There were actually several proposals - my own favorite was a thing 
called TUBA, which was an adaptation of the ISO/OSI connectionless 
network layer.  There were several aspects that were interesting, and it 
had an address that was expansible up to 160bits.  The hostility towards 
ISO/OSI is still strong today - much to the detriment of the internet - 
and was much stronger back then.  So TUBA sank beneath the IETF's waves.

It was recognized back then that there were several issues in play; the 
address size was recognized as but one issue among many.

The format of the address was another - the variable size of the TUBA 
"NSAP" scared people who built routers because of the overhead of 
parsing a flexible address format.

Which leads to the big issue that IPv6 never squarely faced - the issue 
of how routing information is created, aggregated, propagated, used, and 
withdrawn on the net.  As a general rule the net's routing 
infrastructure needs to be able to propagate route information faster 
than the average rate of route change.  And since those days we've 
learned to be a lot more skeptical about the authenticity of routing 

Early on there was much talk and though about IPv6 transition - how 
things might co-exist, even with intermediated interoperation of IPv4 
and IPv6 devices.  But over time the energy to have a smooth transition 
withered and left us more with a conversion from IPv4 to IPv6 rather 
than a transition - the difference is subtle, conversion tends to be a 
more painful hurdle to leap than a transition.

My own personal feeling is that IPv6 is too little and too late, that it 
will hit with about the same force as ISO/OSI - which like IPv6 had the 
backing of governments (GOSIP) and large companies (MAP - General 
Motors, TOP - Boeing).

We are here talking on a mailing list in which many of the discussions 
are based on a recognition of the increasing desire of governments, 
intellectual property protectors, corporations, and others to stake out 
territories for them to control.

In other words, we here are quite familiar with the fact that there are 
many forces that want to carve the internet up into fiefdoms and draw 
paywalls or tariff-walls or censorship lines around their dominions.

In addition users of the net no longer view the internet as a vehicle 
for the transport of packets from one IP address to another.  Rather 
users today see the internet as a bag of applications.  They don't care 
how the engines underneath work as long as the applications work.  In 
other words, users don't care about the end-to-end principle.

So we have to evolving forces:

   A) the desire of gov'ts and others to create and regulate choke 
points into/out-from their chunks of the net

   B) the the consumer-eye view of the net as a platform for applications

These two forces combine to allow the net to evolve in a direction many 
of us do not like to think about - a kind of soft fragmentation that I 
call the "lumpy" internet.

Such a lumpy internet would be composed of distinct, but each fully 
formed, IPv4 (or IPv6) address spaces.  Each lump would have its own 
routing infrastructure, own hierarchy, etc.  If someone, like China or 
Comcast, needed more addresses than IPv4 could provide, they could 
create more lumps for themselves, each with a full 32-bit address space.

These lumps would be connected by Application Level Gateways - things 
like web proxies.  These would act as relays between the lumps. 
End-to-end addressing is by names, such as URIs or twitter tags or 
whatever seems appropriate.

This may seem far fetched, but it is not unlike the way that mobile 
phone networks interconnect applications (voice being one application, 
texting be another) between competing, even hostile providers such as 
AT&T and Verizon.

(These ALGs are much like a concept I proposed back in the 1980 and that 
Cisco revived a couple of years back - they are essentially the 
application layer analog to layer 3 IP routers.)

Domain names would become contextual - their meaning would depend on the 
lump in which they were uttered.  However, people don't like surprises 
and there would be a natural pressure for the DNS naming systems of 
different lumps to construct mechanisms or clearinghouses to assure a 
reasonable, but probably not perfect, degree of consistency, while 
allowing local/per-lump variations and extensions.  Application level 
gateways might find that one of their jobs is mapping out 
inconsistencies of names between lumps.

Internet lumps have some attractive properties, at least in the eyes of 

   - They are "owned" so that the owner, whether that be a country or a 
corporation or a religious group, can open contact with the rest of the 
world only through guarded portals (i.e. their set of application gateways.)

   - Those portals can be taxed, censored, data-mined as desired.  And 
since application level gateways pull user-data up to the application 
layer, there is no need for deep packet inspection technologies.

   - Since each lump is in itself a complete IPv4 space, there is no 
need for transition to IPv6.  Each lump could give itself the entire 
32-bit IPv4 address space, just as today we each re-use the same chunks 
of IPv4 private address space behind the NAT's in our homes.

   - Application level gateways between lumps do not require super-NATs, 
so the 64K limit on TCP/UDP port number issues do not arise.

This not necessarily an attractive view of the future, but it is 
possible and, I believe, likely.

It would be sad indeed, from the point of civil liberties and 
expression, to kiss goodbye to the end-to-end principle.  But that loss 
is as much due to users who view the network as applications as to any 
of the other forces - attractive toys often distract us from social values.

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