China's Internet Architecture Gives the Rest of Us a Run for Our Money

In a lot of ways, China's Internet isn't the sort of Internet you want to be using. It's ridiculously censored, for example. But in other ways, it's way better than the stuff we have over here. According to a recent report from the New England Complex Systems Institute, China's 'net infrastructure is head and shoulders above what we've got here in the west.

The report, compiled in 2008 and only recently released to the public, outlines two major areas in which China's got us beat. For one, there's the security feature known as Source Address Validation Architecture (SAVA). SAVA puts checkpoints across a network and systematically builds up a database of trusted computers and their IP addresses, and authenticates who's really sending what. The result is that malicious spoofing becomes near impossible, instead of ludicrously easy. It's a system that Steve Wolff, one of the Internet's founding fathers, tells New Scientist "should be much more widely adopted." And China's got it baked in.

Second, there's the issue of IPv6, the next-gen Internet Protocol system that will increase the number of available IPs by trillions of trillions. While IPv6 adoption in the United States and other countries has been slow-ish, leaving an increasingly small pool of IPv4 address for an increasingly large pool of devices, China has been diving into IPv6 adoption. After all, China's got a ton of people and more and more of them want to use the Internet, so China has been having to rev up to this for a while. Donald Riley, an information systems specialist at the University of Maryland put it this way to New Scientist:

"China has a national internet backbone in place that operates under IPv6 as the native network protocol. We have nothing like that in the US."

As easy as it is to dismiss China's Internet as closed and stifling, the reality of the situation is that its architecture is new and shiny compaired to the aging framework being used in much of the western world. And having that sturdier, more future-proof structure is going to put China at an advantage as we all trudge onward into the future. We've got some catching up to do, but we probably don't want to be too much like China. [New Scientist]