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[ih] IPv4 address size debate

I remember when handling packets at wirespeed was a challenge, but that 
was solved by hardware. The 48-bit EtherMac address was a much bigger 
issue than IP addresses, and the size of the Ethernet header (112 bits) 
guaranteed that the IP header wasn't going to be 32-bit aligned anyhow.

John Day wrote:
> You missed the point of my comment.  I am well aware of the coding 
> issues.  Although, Oran and others have always argued that variable 
> was not a big deal in hardware.
> The point was that if you think in terms of a relative architecture, 
> rather than the traditional fixed flat architecture, fixed is 
> variable, or was that variable is fixed?  ;-)
> I was implying that fixed was really all that was necessary, if you 
> really understood the inherent structure.  But then you knew that, 
> didn't you?
> Take care,
> John
> At 1:46 -0500 2009/11/12, Craig Partridge wrote:
>>  > Once one understands the bigger picture, one realizes that question
>>>  of variable vs fixed is a non-sequitor. But one does have to get free
>>>  of the constraints of a Ptolemaic approach to architecture.
>> Hi John:
>> I'm afraid I disagree (at the risk of being lumped in the distinguished
>> company of Ptolemy).
>> I agree that in much of the networking and distributed systems world, 
>> variable
>> vs. fixed is not a big deal and has all the utility of the binary vs. 
>> representations debate (i.e. not much).
>> But, in routers and encrypters and similar boxes that handle large 
>> volumes
>> of data, fixed vs. variable is still a challenge.  The fundamental 
>> issue is
>> that while links work in terms of bits and bytes, processors and 
>> memories
>> actually work in terms of blocks/chunks.  That's because they use 
>> parallelism
>> they use to go fast (and one reason they use parallelism is physics 
>> -- prop
>> times across chip boundaries, etc).
>> So when writing code for routers that has to go fast, you are constantly
>> thinking about those blocks and trying to avoid crossing block 
>> boundaries
>> (both in instructions and data accesses) and trying to keep your 
>> software
>> using the minimum number of blocks, as touching an additional block is
>> a serious performance hit.   Knowing exactly how your data is laid out
>> is a huge boon here -- it removes the uncertainty of how many blocks 
>> you'll
>> have to touch (and how many instructions you have to execute).
>> And sizing for the max (assuming the variable address is always max 
>> length)
>> doesn't help either -- because there are two addresses in a header, 
>> if the
>> first one is short then all your plans for the second address are 
>> undone.
>> Upleveling my point -- we have a computing abstraction (bytes) which 
>> doesn't
>> match how computers, when stressed for performance, actually work and 
>> that
>> has implications for packet headers.
>> Thanks!
>> Craig

Richard Bennett
Research Fellow
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
Washington, DC