Key Internet Technology Challenge Areas for 2014

By Leslie Daigle
Internet Society

As we put 2013 behind us and welcome 2014, it seems appropriate to pause and consider what it is that we want to see in the coming years. When I think five years out, and what I’d like to see for the Internet, four things come to mind:


1. One global Internetwork

It seems trivial to say – the Internet *is* global, and it is certainly one of a kind! But, there are still billions of people on this planet who have yet to experience it, and already there are many forces at work that could undermine its global nature.

In 2019, to have a global Internet, we need one set of addresses. There aren’t enough IPv4 addresses to make that work – I want to see the Internet based on IPv6, not increasingly complex network address translation (NAT). And not a world of balkanized networks, communicating through limited connection points (in/egresses, translation boxes). IPv6 deployment has made great strides in the past 12 months, but there’s still a long way to go before we can be confident that the net will not consist of a bunch of islands of IPv4 and IPv6 connected by translators.

2. Resilient and reliable networking

2013 brought a lot of attention to the task of securing networks against inappropriate pervasive monitoring. This has provided a good stimulus to refocus on effective security in protocol design, implementation, and, more importantly, operation of networking services. But there is an inevitable tussle between securing systems and use/management of them. How many people use encrypted email? Not many, in the general population of Internet users. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the challenge of getting, installing, and using certificates in email clients is not the least of them. (And, let’s not even contemplate the futility of an archive of encrypted email for which you’ve lost the PGP key…). So the ongoing challenge is to find the right ways to increase security without compromising usability — or else the networking will be neither resilient nor reliable.

And, it’s not even just about the new and exciting topic of global surveillance – there are plenty of known, mundane approaches to making networks more resilient that we can (and should) apply. A common-sense routing hygiene applied to customers and peers is a known best practice that would do a lot to reduce the kind of route hijacking that Renesys reported in November 2013. Or anti-spoofing measures, first recommended more than a decade ago in BCP38, that could eliminate the risk that a network becomes a launch pad of a 300Gb/s DDoS reflection attack. Or configuring a DNS resolver to respond only to its own customers… The list is long. And these are solutions we can, and should, apply uniformly today as our best path to a reliable and resilient network in 2019

3. The Internet is (still a) platform for innovation

With one global, resilient, and reliable Internet in 2019, we should be in good shape for it to still be the platform for innovation that we’ve enjoyed so far in its history. That is, as long as it remains based on open, interoperable standards of the type developed under Open-Stand principles. And as long as we continue to empower new entrants (for both networking and services). The Internet is, and can continue to be, about much more than just delivering media, advertising, and latest viral videos. The Internet is not just a broadcast network!

4. Policy transitions successfully navigated

The Internet has enjoyed an early history of “light touch” regulation from most governments around the world. But as the Internet becomes a crucial element of economic growth, prosperity, and even national security, there are a couple of areas where changes are coming. Notably, the US, Germany, and others have stated their plan to “turn off” the public switched telephony network (PSTN) in their countries by 2018. While we may understand the technology involved in this “IP Transition” of telephony to Internet Protocol-based voice technologies, it’s less clear how regulation should evolve. A lot of telecomm regulation has to do with the way the PSTN works – it’s no simple matter to say “all that applied to PSTN now applies to (the Internet, or Voice over IP)”.

Those are all pretty challenging areas! But, I believe the Internet will be what we make it – so let’s stay focused on the constructive, and address challenges by being clear about what we want as the positive outcome, and building our way there through collaboration and dialog.

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