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Its memory isn’t what it used to be


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News last month that the Internet is heading towards a melt down appears to be somewhat premature. That's not to say that the '512k' bug isn't an issue, more that it's an issue that's been planned for - although some may argue not planned for enough.

Likened to the Y2K problem (for those of us old enough to remember), the 512k bug has also been caused by aging IT infrastructure. Essentially, equipment designers had to put a value on the number of routes traffic could take across the network of routers - the magic number being 512,000. Back then it was thought impossible that we'd ever reach that scale. But throw in a few million smart phones and tablets over the past decade and here we are.

The result of hitting the upper limit has been a few major website outages - most notably eBay, Time Warner and Lastpast - and some slowing down of browsing speeds. What we haven't seen is the collapse of the Internet itself - yet.

James Blessing, chairman of the UK's Internet Service Providers Association was quoted in The Guardian as saying "In the grand scheme of things, it's tiny. It's a glitch, glitches happen." Blessing goes on to explain that the chances are that since we've already exceeded the 512K number anything (router) that may have had this problem is no longer connected to the Internet.

In fact Cisco, the manufacturer of most of the Internet's routers, put out a notice and provided a workaround solution for its routers back in May. In a recent blog, Omar Santos, Incident Manager, Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) Security Research and Operations, said "Our industry has known this milestone was approaching for some time."


We have, in fact, seen this problem before. Back in October 1995 the routing table hit 32K commentators warned of the imminent collapse of the internet.   ISPs and equipment vendors worked hard to maintain service and in December fixes were available.

The difference back in 1995 was that the number of internet users was significantly less - meaning fewer witnesses and less people to report problems. The internet was also far less of a critical infrastructure that it is today. The issue was fixed in 1995 and the limit moved to an unimaginable 128K.

What? Wait? They only set it to 128K? You mean we've surpassed that too? Yep that happened in 2001. My flippancy aside, I wanted to demonstrate that in the big scheme of things the 512K bug isn't a bug at all, just a continuous need to develop and support the growth of the equipment that supports the internet. While there's no need to panic, there is a need to ensure that this vital infrastructure remains as advanced as we can make it.  The internet was designed to be robust - and it still is.

Ref: http://www.cidr-report.org/



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