Internet Routers Hit Memory Limit Causing Massive Outages
Several companies, including eBay and password management service LastPass faced Internet outage earlier this week. If you were unable to reach your websites, you are not the only one. The problem arose because of an issue in Internet infrastructure that network engineers need to address now to avoid it from happening again.
Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)
BGP table is used to determine the path taken by the data packets to reach their destination. It stores information about next router to which data is to be forwarded. Note that these routers are not smaller ones that we see in our homes but they are big machines of other ISPs. For example, if your ISP needs to forward your data packets to another ISP to service your request, it will use BGP table to determine to which ISP it should forward the data.
“BGP is what tier-one ISPs, your last-mile ISP and various large networks use to route data from their own machines to others, and vice versa,” said Matthew Sparkes, Deputy Head of Technology with The Telegraph.
“When you visit a website, that data bounces all over the world, through machines belonging to all manner of companies and organizations. To make this work, machines called routers (large commercial versions of what you have at home) keep a table of known, trusted routes through the tangled web.”
The Problem – 512K Limit
Older routers set 512K limit for storing these BGP table entries, and now they are being exhausted because of ever growing volume and complexity of Internet. Many devices are joining the Internet day by day, and the memory set aside by the routers is now getting full.
Early programmers set this 512k limit to achieve low cost in the router manufacturing process. Little did they know that this limit would not be enough for next ages.
This problem luckily has not affected large number of Internet users. This is because these old routers are sparse in number as compared to the other new routers that don’t have this memory limit.
“In terms of looking at the overall stability of the Internet and taking its temperature, we really have not seen its temperature rising,” said Jim Cowie, chief scientist at the network-performance monitoring service Dyn. “But as 512K becomes the norm, as it will in the next few weeks, the temperature will rise a little bit as we find out where all of these (outdated) systems live.”
Internet is growing rapidly with more and more devices getting connected to it day by day. The domain of Internet-of-things is connecting household items to the Internet hence making it more and more complex. We have seen the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses in the past. So IPv6 was introduced to service more IP addresses as the Internet-connected devices grew in number.
Now we are seeing the exhaustion of memory limit in routers. We hope this issue gets resolved soon.