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Internet's biggest issue? IPv6 transition, new ARIN CEO says

ISP exec Curran takes the helm of the North American registry as IPv4 addresses are poised to run out

By , Network World
July 06, 2009 05:14 PM ET

Network World - Veteran ISP executive John Curran is the new president and CEO of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, a coordinating body that allocates IP addresses and related autonomous system numbers to carriers and enterprises in North America. Curran's previous high-profile posts include CTO and COO of ServerVault, CTO for XO Communications, and CTO for BBN/GTE Internetworking. Curran was a founding member of the ARIN Board of Trustees and served as its chairman from August 1997 until December 2008. 

Curran is taking charge of ARIN at an important juncture in the non-profit's12-year history. ARIN is as the crossroads of the transition from IPv4, which has been the Internet's main communications protocol since its inception 30 years ago, to the long-anticipated upgrade known as IPv6. The remaining IPv4 addresses are scheduled for depletion in two years, which will require carriers and enterprises to support IPv6. IPv6 offers vastly more IP addresses than IPv4 along with built-in security and enhanced support for peer-to-peer and video streaming applications.

We spoke with Curran about why it's so important for enterprises to start preparing their public-facing Internet services to support IPv6. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

How will your role as ARIN President and CEO differ from your previous role as chair of the ARIN Board of Trustees?

ARIN provides an essential service for ISPs and large enterprises that need IP addresses and autonomous system numbers. It's an operational job, and one that requires a high level of focus. I felt that it wasn't reasonable to do that and the chairman's job. As of today, ARIN President and CEO will be my permanent role. I'm still on the ARIN Board of Trustees, but we have a new chair, Paul Vixie [president of the Internet Systems Consortium]. My focus is on the day-to-day operations and making sure ARIN is there for the ISP and enterprise community.

Why take on the job as ARIN president and CEO at this point in time?

If you look at the challenge that the Internet faces going forward — the short number of years we have from being on top of IPv4 depletion and the whole IPv6 transition issue — that makes it more important than ever to have all of the regional registries including ARIN running smoothly and doing all the necessary preparation work. IPv6 motivated me, quite frankly. It will be important to have ISPs and enterprises look at their public facing Internet infrastructures and figure out how to support IPv6 if they want to have their services available to the whole Internet.

How will ARIN change under your leadership?

ARIN has been running fairly well. I don't expect any dramatic changes. I bring the perspective of someone who has run two successful carriers with very large nationwide networks and recent experience with a hosting company. I expect to keep the customer focus at ARIN, and to perhaps sharpen it.

What is the most pressing issue facing ARIN today?

IPv4 address depletion is the most pressing issue facing the Internet community today and for many years to come. The fact that we've been ready for this for a decade doesn't make the transition that we will be going through over the next five years all that much easier. The fact that we've been ready for 10 years adds to the complacency. Rather than averting a sense of crisis, it's caused a lot of people to question: Is this going to happen? Yes, we are going to run out of free IPv4 addresses, and organizations that want to be able to make use of the Internet will need to support IPv6.

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