Will Multicast kill Packet Switching?

With the demise of ATM, many technologists believe that circuit switching is dead and packet switching has won. Yet the current Internet multicast architecture is essentially circuit switching in disguise, since every router along the path of a multicast session has to maintain explicit connection state. Which leads me to wonder… can packet switching support multicast, or is circuit switching required?

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NAT and the Failure of Source Routing

Paul Francis, in the conclusion of his 1994 Ph.D. thesis, traces the evolution of the IPv4 address scheme. After quoting a June 1978 Clark/Cohen paper (IEN 46), Francis notes:

    Well, something happened here. An argument was put forth that 32 bits is enough because the address does not have to do routing – the source route can handle the rest. Clearly it was recognized that a variable length something was needed, but the source route was deemed sufficient for that, and the 32-bit address won out in the end. So, perhaps what killed IP is not that the address is too short (though probably it is), but that the ability for DNS to hand a host a source route (which it could then put in the header so that the right thing could happen in the network) was not created.

    (p. 177)

Not only did the failure to fully implement source routing (in DNS) make it impossible to address into a private network, it also created the situation where NAT had to be implemented as it was.

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Lightweight Multicast (LWM)

The Internet has become infamous among network professionals for its near pathological inability to deploy multicast. The Internet’s current multicast specifications place significant demands on the network, most significantly the need for routers to maintain a multicast routing tree for each multicast address. I propose a lightwight multicast (LWM) designed specifically to alleviate this requirement by listing a full set of destination addresses in each packet header, using a header option.

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A Theory for Analyzing Addressing Structures

Years ago, I described the “fundamental principle of routing” that “logical addresses correspond to physical locations”. This implies some kind of relationship between addressing structure and network topology. Using concepts from (mathematical) topology, we can make this relationship more precise, and obtain a theory for analyzing addressing structures. I use this theory particularly to note the inadequacy of CIDR and to establish a framework for analyzing possible extensions or replacements to CIDR.

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