Network Address Translation - Drawbacks


The primary purpose of IP-masquerading NAT is that it has been a practical solution to the impending exhaustion of IPv4 address space. Even large networks can be connected to the Internet with as little as a single IP address. The more common arrangement is having machines that require end-to-end connectivity supplied with a routable IP address, while having machines that do not provide services to outside users behind NAT with only a few IP addresses used to enable Internet access, however, this brings some problems, outlined below.

Some have also called this exact feature a major drawback, since it delays the need for the implementation of IPv6:

" it is possible that its widespread use will significantly delay the need to deploy IPv6. It is probably safe to say that networks would be better off without NAT "

Hosts behind NAT-enabled routers do not have end-to-end connectivity and cannot participate in some Internet protocols. Services that require the initiation of TCP connections from the outside network, or stateless protocols such as those using UDP, can be disrupted. Unless the NAT router makes a specific effort to support such protocols, incoming packets cannot reach their destination. Some protocols can accommodate one instance of NAT between participating hosts ("passive mode" FTP, for example), sometimes with the assistance of an application-level gateway (see below), but fail when both systems are separated from the Internet by NAT. Use of NAT also complicates tunneling protocols such as IPsec because NAT modifies values in the headers which interfere with the integrity checks done by IPsec and other tunneling protocols.

End-to-end connectivity has been a core principle of the Internet, supported for example by the Internet Architecture Board. Current Internet architectural documents observe that NAT is a violation of the End-to-End Principle, but that NAT does have a valid role in careful design. There is considerably more concern with the use of IPv6 NAT, and many IPv6 architects believe IPv6 was intended to remove the need for NAT.

Because of the short-lived nature of the stateful translation tables in NAT routers, devices on the internal network lose IP connectivity typically within a very short period of time unless they implement NAT keep-alive mechanisms by frequently accessing outside hosts. This dramatically shortens the power reserves on battery-operated hand-held devices and has thwarted more widespread deployment of such IP-native Internet-enabled devices.

Some Internet service providers (ISPs), especially in India, Russia, parts of Asia and other "developing" regions provide their customers only with "local" IP addresses, due to a limited number of external IP addresses allocated to those entities. Thus, these customers must access services external to the ISP's network through NAT. As a result, the customers cannot achieve true end-to-end connectivity, in violation of the core principles of the Internet as laid out by the Internet Architecture Board.

  • Scalability - An implementation that only tracks ports can be quickly depleted by internal applications that use multiple simultaneous connections (such as an HTTP request for a web page with many embedded objects). This problem can be mitigated by tracking the destination IP address in addition to the port (thus sharing a single local port with many remote hosts), at the expense of implementation complexity and CPU/memory resources of the translation device.
  • Firewall complexity - Because the internal addresses are all disguised behind one publicly accessible address, it is impossible for external hosts to initiate a connection to a particular internal host without special configuration on the firewall to forward connections to a particular port. Applications such as VOIP, videoconferencing, and other peer-to-peer applications must use NAT traversal techniques to function.

Read more about this topic:  Network Address Translation

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