Tuesday, March 09, 2010

[CWHK] 2011: we were warned...about IPv6


2011: we were warned...about IPv6 

For years we’ve been told that IPv4—the present Internet protocol standard—would be running out soon, and when IPv6 takes over, there will be enough IP addresses to go around for every sand particle on the earth’s surface. That sounds wonderful, but nobody seems to truly understand that IPv4 addresses are running out. 

Even now, when the Number Resource Organization (NRO)—the official representative of the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) that oversee the allocation of Internet number resources—recently announced that less than 10% of available IPv4 addresses remain unallocated, businesses still don’t seem to care. Companies that depend on the Internet for their business seem oblivious, as do ISPs who provide Net access for their clients. 

Train wreck dead ahead 

Why is this? For one thing, IPv6 is not your traditional “upgrade” with immediately beneficial features. The upgrade will improve things like multicasts and router processing, but the Internet won’t run significantly faster over IPv6 than it does IPv4. Also, there aren’t enough trained IPv6 network engineers around, so companies will have human-resource problems implementing the upgrade. Why not simply wait? 

The inconvenient truth is that the longer we wait, the more costly it will be once we eventually have to switch. 

“We’ve reached a critical low water mark for IP addresses,” said Geoff Huston, chief scientist for the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) and global expert on IP address usage. “Out of the original 4.5 billion [IP] addresses, less than 400 million remain. This is simply not enough to fuel further Internet growth. Consider how many new Internet compatible mobile phones were connected during 2009 in Asia-Pacific alone.” 

The IP addresses run out WHEN? 

While APNIC will continue to allocate IPv4 addresses to the industry, it anticipates that the central world-wide pool will run out during late 2011. Asia-Pacific ISPs will only be able to get IPv4 address for a few months after that, until APNIC’s pool depletes. Last month, APNIC issued a warning to the Internet community in Asia about this curiously little-known upcoming threat: that organizations relying on the Internet to conduct business have only a limited time to act and adapt to changing technology. It is anticipated that for some years to come, businesses will continue to run IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously over dual-stacking. 

Paul Wilson, director general of APNIC, warns, “Without planning and risk assessment, IPv4 exhaustion poses a tangible threat to the long-term growth and innovation of virtually all organizations in the region.” And due to the rapid growth of the Internet in Asia, the situation here is even more dire. Of the 190.1 million IPv4 addresses allocated during 2009, 45.87% were in the Asia Pacific region, with China consuming more IPv4 addresses than any other country. 

Is Hong Kong ready? Probably not. Only one local ISP provides IPv6 support to its customers. Others cite lack of demand—a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. But fortunately the OGICIO has taken the lead in supporting IPv6 in the Government Backbone Network (GNET), enabling the government’s domain name and web hosting services to support IPv6, so that all gov.hk domains and over 200 government websites can be resolved and accessed respectively through IPv6. 

IPv6 adoption is one of the key priorities and initiatives of the global Internet Society, and locally Internet Society Hong Kong (ISOC-HK) has organized two well attended forums for international experts to share experience with the local network engineering community, including one on security issues arising from IPv6 deployment on February 23 to an overflow audience. A Working Group has been formed under ISOC-HK to coordinate future training and promotional activities. On April 13-14, INET Asia (the Asia conference of ISOC) will organize another sharing session with developers around Asia to report on regional progress—subjects will include domain name business, security & privacy, and IPv6. 

Published on Computerworld Hong Kong on March 9 2010


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