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Network World - Geoff Huston, an Australian researcher whose predictions about IPv4 depletion dates have proven uncannily accurate over the years, is still not certain that IPv6 will get deployed in time to avert an addressing crisis across the Internet.
Despite the success of last week's World IPv6 Launch Day - in which 60 access networks and 3,000 websites including Google, Facebook and Yahoo enabled support for IPv6 -- Huston says there hasn't been enough market momentum surrounding IPv6 to declare it a sure thing. While Huston concedes that the event caused a rise in IPv6 usage to about 1% in the United States, he says the protocol needs to be at a 20% usage rate to ensure that it will succeed.
SLIDESHOW: Why the Internet needs IPv6
I chatted with Huston from Canberra, where he is chief scientist of APNIC and an adjunct research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Internet Architectures. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
Has World IPv6 Launch Day changed your pessimistic view of IPv6?
No. Last year, we actually saw in the three to four months leading up to World IPv6 Day [a 24-hour trial of IPv6 services], an exponential increase in IPv6 usage. When I look now at the same set of statistics -- the number of networks that announce IPv6 on their Autonomous System Numbers, the number of entries in the IPv6 inter-domain routing table -- that sharp rise that happened 13 months ago didn't appear last month. It's almost like the folk that were going to play in IPv6, started to play a year ago, and the threshold for everybody else is too high. That leads me to the relatively pessimistic view about the business issues around IPv6. The customers are not going to fund this with incremental payments. The industry -- particularly the last-mile access industry -- is having a tough time coming up with the amount of money required. I'd love to be optimistic about IPv6; I just can't see it in the data.
Are you pessimistic even in the United States, which had some of its largest ISPs including Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner participate in World IPv6 Launch Day?
Yes. We measure about 600,000 random people a day to see who is using IPv6 to access YouTube. The U.S. on average had about 0.6% of customers selecting IPv6. It jumped to 0.95% over the last two weeks. To say that IPv6 usage rising from 0.6% to 0.95% is a dramatic jump is [not true.] If we were talking about increasing from 1% to 20%, I'd say, "Let's break out the champagne." Once we get to that kind of number, there's an assured outcome. Maybe I'm a tough one. Maybe the glass is half-empty. But 0.95% is not brilliant. There's still an amazing amount of work that has to happen. One in 100 is not critical mass.
You have predicted a shortfall of 800 million IPv4 addresses developing between 2012 and 2014. What about allocated-but-unused IPv4 addresses? Could they solve this shortfall?
I look at the sales projections of Apple and folk in the Android area. They're forecasting this year along the lines of 300 million to 400 million new mobile subscribers, and the same for next year, and the year after. Even if you were capable of taking the 1.84 billion unadvertised IPv4 addresses and reusing them, that would buy only three more years of life for IPv4. And we can't get them all because a lot of them are tightly tied up in networks. Yes, some IPv4 address space is being released into secondary markets. That market is inevitable, but it's a short-term palliative measure. It's not a cure. IPv4 can't cut it if what you want at the end is one network.