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The 6 biggest misconceptions about IPv6

Debunking myths that keep CIOs from adopting next-gen Internet addressing scheme

By , Network World
February 24, 2011 09:03 AM ET

Network World - For 15 years, Internet engineers and policymakers have been publicizing the need to upgrade the 'Net's current addressing scheme -- known as IPv4 -- to handle the network-of-network's explosive growth. Yet many U.S. CIOs and CTOs continue to harbor misinformation that they use to justify why they are not adopting the next-generation IPv6 standard.

This issue is significant because the Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. The non-compatible replacement protocol, IPv6, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices: 2 to the 128th power.

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Here is a list of the biggest misconceptions about IPv4 depletion and IPv6 deployment that we've read or heard in recent weeks:

1. The Internet still has plenty of IPv4 addresses.

Whether or not you think the Internet has run out of IPv4 addresses depends on where you live in the world and how fast your network is growing.

In early February, the free pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses was depleted when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) delegated the last five blocks of IPv4 address space - each with around 16.7 million addresses - to the five regional registries. The registries are expected to dole out the majority of these IPv4 addresses to carriers in 2011.

IPv4 free pool depletion is the first step in the Internet running out of IPv4 addresses. It is a significant milestone in the 40-year history of the Internet because it shows that IPv4 addresses are a limited resource.

Over the next few months, it will become increasingly difficult for mobile and broadband carriers with fast-growing networks to acquire the blocks of contiguous IPv4 address space that they need to build out their networks.

Some carriers are predicting massive IPv4 address shortages this year. Chinatelecom has predicted that it will be short 20 million IPv4 addresses in 2011, which will affect its roll-out of mobile broadband, IP TV and other popular services. As far as Chinatelecom is concerned, the Internet has already run out of IPv4 addresses.

Some U.S. government agencies and companies that were involved in the original research that evolved into the Internet received enormous blocks of IPv4 address space before anyone realized it would be a scarce resource. For these lucky organizations - like the U.S. military, IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - it won't feel like the Internet has run out of IPv4 addresses any time soon.

Most U.S. companies that do business on the Internet have a limited number of IPv4 addresses. The day is fast-approaching when these companies will need IPv4 addresses and be unable to get them from their carriers. That will be the day when their CIOs realize the Internet has run out of IPv4 addresses.

2. My company doesn't need to adopt IPv6 yet.

An IT executive at a company that operates a string of Web sites and earns more than $100 million in annual revenues recently said that the business case "hasn't been made'' for adopting IPv6. This company has not begun any development work on IPv6, nor has it earmarked funds in this year's budget for such work.

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