Network address translation

Tuesday 23 September 2003

I’m a software geek, which means I’m perfectly happy to deal with hardware and icky things like wires as abstractions. The grungy details of how IP gets around are a perfect example. I don’t know, and for the most part, I don’t care. I have a home wireless network with a cable modem and firewall router. I put it together, but I just barely know how it works. I haven’t had to fiddle with it in over a year (knock wood).

Network Address Translation (NAT) is one of those network technologies I didn’t know much about. That’s changed, thanks to Charles Miller’s readable explanation of it all, complete with an assessment of why it’s flawed. I’ll be honest — I still don’t want to know all the details. I’m happy to leave those things to others who care and are fascinated by them. But now I know a little bit more, and that’s got to be a good thing.

BTW: I thought of titling this entry “NAT world”, but I decided that would be too cute and confusing.


andrew 2:06 PM on 23 Sep 2003

This seems like an overblown indictment of NAT. It *does* have its uses, especially for in-home networks, where the idea is simply to have a multitude of client machines being able to share a single outward-facing IP address. The root of all of his angst seems to stem from server applications, which is -- to say the least -- an "advanced" topic for most broadband customers.

For the Ned and Andrew households, NAT does the job well with a bare minimum of fuss.

Charles Miller 6:36 PM on 23 Sep 2003

I admit it turned into a bit of a rant. But it's not really _that_ overblown. The problem is not server applications, it's P2P. To make a peer-to-peer connection, at least one side has to be un-NAT'd. (Unless you can piggyback on some intermediary)

So NAT really gets in the way of things like P2P (including IRC/IM) file-transfers, IP telephony and videoconferencing. I wouldn't call any of those things "advanced topics", they're more the sort of thing that a domestic user will either expect to "just work", or not use at all.

andrew 10:16 PM on 23 Sep 2003

My mom, "Mrs. Average Broadband User", would call those "advanced topics". Yessir ee...

That being said, your point about P2P apps is taken.

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