Home Networks of the Future

At the 81st IETF in Quebec, a new working group was formed to work on standards for home networks. During the kickoff meeting, a number of talks were delivered depicting a future where homes have an integrated network infrastructure comprising of several sub-networks (IPv6 of course ;-) interconnected by several routers and supported by multiple uplinks. Furthermore, a number of firewalls will be present to provide separation between the office network, the entertainment network, the kid’s network, the utility network, the home automation network, the health monitoring network, etc.

While I am sure that some networking geeks will have such integrated home networks (and apparently some IESG members already enjoy building networks like this), I have some doubts that such highly integrated home networks will become the norm, for simple operational reasons: My utility provider likely does not want to answer support questions that turn out to be a problem in my integrated home network. Similarly, my TV provider likely does not want to deal with issues caused by my game playing kids and improper configuration of network separation (as kids grow up, they might also start playing games with my internal routing protocol). And surely, the organization I am working for wants to ensure proper protection of my home office and likely sees no reason to trust any of the elements of my home network.

I consider it much more likely that we will have a number of mostly isolated networks in the home of the future with relatively few shared elements. These mostly separate networks will run IP (not sure which version) and there is likely little direct communication between then. For example, I can imagine that my utility provider likes to access my meter via my ISP’s connection to my home, but I assume that the joint infrastructure ends where the ISP’s network enters my home. For example, the ISP might lease a VLAN to the utility provider and a separate utility network starts right at the point where the ISP network ends. But it might also be possible that the utility provider simply hooks in the meanwhile paid and thus cheap GSM network to read my meter, which is even less hassle to deploy and operate.

That said, lets see how the home networking activity proceeds in the IETF. Perhaps the working group manages to come up with solutions how to run an integrated home network in an autonomic way that does not need any management and reliably delivers the services demanded by the different applications.