Network World has a report on how some of the world's top network engineers in the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) are engaged in research efforts to redesign the Internet's underlying routing architecture. At stake is the explosive growth of the BGP routing table, which is straining the processing and memory requirements of the Internet's core routers.
The issue here is how the Internet's backbone routers operate. Owned by disparate large corporations and government agencies, these routers rely on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) — developed in the 1980s — to exchange routing information across the myriad networks that form the Internet.
The BGP routing table is a master list of such routing information stored by backbone routers. The concern is that the continual growth of this routing table will drive up carrier costs, which will then be passed down to end users.
The worst case scenario is that of older routers failing to accommodate the ever-increasing number of routes.
Today, the BGP routing table has around 240,000 routes, up from 195,000 a year ago and 100,000 six years ago.
... Huston [a BGP routing table expert] says some older routers could fail when the routing table tops 244,000 entries.
"One of the deployed pieces of hardware out there has a configured upper limit in the content-addressable memory of 244,000 routes before it has a major problem," Huston says. "We are at the point where some of the deployed hardware is hitting its limits."'
The issue appears partly to do with the fact that no one policies the BGP routing table. Any company can add a route without paying extra for it.
All is not gloom and doom, however. Hardware already exist that can handle a million routes, with chips available now that can scale up to 10 million.
Still, the BGP routing table is worrisome. John Scudder, a participant in IRTF, sums it up. "Any time you see a growth curve is accelerating, it makes every engineer worried."
Web-based applications are experiencing a sharp increase in popularity. Together with the advent of new media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Wikis, the end result is that the number of servers and server farms are bound to increase exponentially.
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Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.