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IP traffic completely lost in Cyberspace

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Is the Internet suffering from a growing number of Black Holes

Does Internet Traffic Mysteriously Disappear?

According to a group of researchers at Washington University this is what is actually happening. And actually this phenomenon inherent to the way computer over the net are communicating.

An IP packet is send to it's destination through a series of routers, that show the way. This provides enormous flexibility. There are no fixed routes, alternatives are always available.

Arpanet the predecessor of the internet we know today was designed to make it possible for computers to communicate even if one of the servers along the route went down. The reason to develop a network like that make perfect sense if you look at it from a military perspective. Back than we still had an enemy that could really be named and was capable of sending a succession of nuclear missiles to our nation.

To prevent all computer depended communication to went down if some key servers got hit the IP protocol was developed. IP packages can travel along different routes to their path. But is not building a connection before it starts to transmit information. And not all packages of one information stream have to follow the same path.

So it's obvious that flexibility has its downside. Routing is they weak link in the chain. And since no notification of the problem is send back the sender can be unaware of the problem. The IP packages have a limited lifetime, meaning they can only  make a predefined number of Router hops and then die. If they didn't we would be flooded with traffic looking for a destination.

http://hubble.cs.washington.edu/ shows the present map of black holes. The internet hubble defines as problem according to its website if the following variables all prove to be true:

  • All Hubble vantage points previously were able to reach the prefix.
  • Some vantage points can still reach the prefix, whereas others fail to reach even the ISP owning the prefix.
  • The problem persists through at least two consecutive 15-minute trials and at most 48 hours.

It's a nice story and shows some of the shortcomings of our system. But not really alarming.

 



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