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IPv6 guru predicts last-minute switch to protocol

Asks: Do you have enough public IPv4 addresses to sustain you?

By , Network World
December 17, 2007 12:10 AM ET

Network World - Remember the Greek myth about Sisyphus, who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill and then watch it roll down again for eternity? The story brings to mind IPv6, the long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet’s main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4.

Jim Bound, Chair of the North American IPv6 Task Force, CTO of the IPv6 Forum and a Senior HP Fellow, has been pushing the IPv6 boulder up the network hill for more than a decade. Bound doesn’t think the task of promoting IPv6 is as unending or pointless as Sisyphus’ boulder, but he does joke that IPv6 may not get deployed during his lifetime. (Read about “How the feds are dropping the ball on IPv6.”)

Carolyn Duffy Marsan spoke recently with Bound about the status of IPv6 adoption in the United States. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

The IPv6 community is now talking about 2010 as the date for IPv4 address exhaustion. Is that date real?

It is very real. It could be plus or minus one year. The consensus is that we have two to four years until we run out of IPv4 addresses. It’s hard to predict how the usage will work. It’s been sporadic over the years. If you go to the IPv6 Forum Web site, you’ll see a counter that shows how much time we feel is left. 

What impact should the 2010 date have on corporate network managers?

The first thing they have to ask themselves is if they have enough public IPv4 addresses to sustain their businesses today, which probably they do. But do they have enough public IPv4 addresses to sustain their businesses forever? There will be new services, new users and new reasons for end-node addresses that require public IP addresses, not private IP addresses. Once the IPv4 address pool is gone, they will not be able to get a public IP address unless they move to IPv6. That’s why the registries have said it’s time to upgrade to IPv6 now.

What should U.S. companies be doing about IPv6?

It’s time for them to begin planning the move to IPv6 for their IT departments. There’s no one-size-fits-all transition plan. The first thing is to upgrade the infrastructure. You need to get your network plumbing in order so that IPv6 can co-exist and be interoperable with IPv4. Things like e-mail and Web services can be moved to IPv6 over time. You also need an address space plan. The exhaustion of the free pool of IPv4 addresses doesn’t mean the Internet melts down. The Internet will keep on going. What changes is the ability to get new public IP addresses. So anybody who is growing, whether they are a broadband provider, a manufacturing concern or a big consulting or Wall Street firm, is not going to be able grow with public IPv4 addresses.

If that’s the case, why do I know of only one U.S. company -- Bechtel -- that is rolling out IPv6?

There’s an assumption by the press that people are going to talk about their IPv6 adoptions. That’s not necessarily true. There are companies that may be on the cusp of moving to IPv6 who are not going to share that with me or you. This is very confidential stuff for some IT departments, whether you’re in banking or at Wal-Mart, because it involves security. It’s also a competitive advantage. Internet-based services are the new revenue stream. So everyone is playing IPv6 close to the vest.

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