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Why Do We Need Naming and Addressing?

The short answer is: to know where to send data. However, the more considered answer is a little longer (but amounts to the same thing). One of the major efficiencies of networks is that every source does not have to be directly connected to every destination. If they were, only the simplest networks would be feasible, and addresses would always be a local matter. But by allowing nodes in the network to act as intermediates to relay messages from sources to destinations, we must at least distinguish them with names, and as the network grows we can greatly decrease the cost of the network at the "mere" expense of adding addresses to the protocols and routing to the network.1 We need to distinguish messages from each other. For simple networks, the mechanisms are deceptively simple, and simply enumerating the nodes is sufficient. But as the size and complexity of the network grows, naming and addressing begins to show itself as a subtle maze with all sorts of traps, quagmires, and dead ends. The protocol designer begins to wonder whether he has unwittingly signed a pact with the devil. But it is too late to turn back. And one is left wondering how engineering suddenly became so philosophical.

There are basically two separate problems that we must consider: 1) What objects need to be named to effect communications, and 2) the nature of the names and addresses used to label these objects. But before diving into the theory of addressing, let's consider how we got here so that we have a better understanding of why the theory is being asked to answer certain questions.

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